The Chicago Bulls took care of business at home in a 92-81 win in Game 2 and will travel to Milwaukee up two in the series. Jimmy Butler led the way with 31 points while Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah controlled the boards, combining for 35 rebounds. Khris Middleton scored 22 points for the Bucks in the losing effort.
It was a defensive battle early on and the Bucks felt right at home in it. Both teams scored a combined 27 points in the first quarter, as the defenses were sharp and the open shots were not falling. Milwaukee thrives in those situations and got off to an early lead. Their limitations on offense prevented them from building up a lead despite the Bulls' shooting woes.
Chicago played better in the second quarter, as Nikola Mirotic and Mike Dunleavy provided outside shooting to stretch out the stout Bucks defense. attacked the seams off the dribble while Derrick Rose found open players on his way to six assists in the period. Only the play of kept Milwaukee afloat. After two lo- scoring quarters, the Bulls led, 39-38 at halftime.
Rose came alive in the third quarter after going scoreless in the first half. He hit a wide open three-pointer and that gave him the confidence to drive to the basket and draw fouls. His scoring was exactly what the Bulls needed to stay on top, since their bigs couldn't really take advantage of the Bucks inside.
Milwaukee refused to go away but Chicago went on a run fueled by Butler and built a 10-point lead that in such a low-scoring affair looked insurmountable. The Bucks made a last push but it came short. The Bulls survived a bad shooting night from Rose and an inspired night from Milwaukee's defense to take a comfortable lead in the series.
3 things we learned
1) Jimmy Butler is ready to lead the Bulls
Rose didn't have it for most of the game as a scorer, going scoreless in the first half. Butler stepped up in his stead, as he has for most of the season. He led all players in scoring with 31 and hit tough shot after tough shot. As always he played great defense and changed the momentum of the game with plays like this one.
Noah is not having a great year and Rose and Gasol can have stretches in which they disappear. Butler is the guy who is always willing to lead the charge and that's just what the Bulls need. When he becomes a free agent in the offseason, every team in the league will try to pry him away but expect the Bulls to lock him up as one of the franchise centerpieces of the future.
2) Better decision-making is the next step in Giannis Antetokounmpo's evolution
Antetokounmpo can do things at 20 years old that few other players can even dream of. He's long, athletic and talented and is already a productive NBA player. He did a little bit of everything on Game 2 and finished with a stat line of six points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. The future is obviously bright for him.
What the Greek Freak needs to improve on is his decision-making, particularly when it comes to calling his own number. Antetokounmpo is not a selfish player but he gets too excited about perceived mismatches and ignores teammates in better positions to score. At one point he wanted to post up Dunleavy so badly that he ignored a cutting Michael Carter-Williams, prompting the former Rookie of the Year to yell "Oh my God. I was open." Giannis is young and he will learn, but moments like that one are happening more often than is ideal.
3) Expect the rest of the series to be like Game 2
The game wasn't pretty in a traditional sense. The score was low, the pace was slow and defense reigned supreme. Both teams played with physicality and there was even two tussles that resulted in technicals forJohn Henson, O.J. Mayo, Mirotic and Zaza Pachulia, who got himself ejected., Butler,
That's how this series between these two teams is supposed to be. Game 1's high scoring and pace will probably be the outlier and not the norm. The matchup might not have the excitement of others but fans of gritty, defensively oriented basketball will surely appreciate it.