For the Milwaukee Bucks to have any chance against the Chicago Bulls in their first-round series, the Bucks' offense was going to have to step up and support their swarming defense. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, the offense has only had brief glimpses of competency mixed in with droughts featuring too many contested jumpers and botched layups in the first two games.
The Bucks shot just over 39 percent in the 103-91 Game 1 loss on Saturday, playing right into the Bulls' hands by taking nearly 42 percent of their shots from the mid-range area. Tom Thibodeau's Bulls teams have always done a good job forcing teams into those mid-range attempts and taking away the three-point line. That was a key factor in that Game 1 victory.
Bucks youngsters Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo really struggled from mid-range in Game 1, going a combined 2-of-12 from that zone. Carter-Williams took eight of his 13 shots from outside the paint (all twos), per NBA.com, despite having a notable size advantage at the point guard spot. He shot just over 29 percent from mid-range on the season, so the Bulls will gladly give up those kinds of shots all night.
Milwaukee made it a point to attack the rim more in Game 2, and according to SportVU, the Bucks had 40 drives on the night (Carter-Williams had 12 himself) to just 19 for Chicago. Also, when you look at the shot chart, you see that they had a higher percentage of shots at the rim and less from mid-range:
Instead of nearly 42 percent of their shots from mid-range like in Game 1, only a third of the Bucks' shots came from that zone. Nearly 37 percent of their attempts came at the rim after only about 29 percent came there in the first game. That's good!
The problem here is that Milwaukee blew a ton of layups and still couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from three in a 91-82 defeat. Khris Middleton went 3-of-7 from long range in Game 2. The rest of the Bucks combined went 1-of-10.
As noted, Carter-Williams did a better job attacking the basket, including a couple nifty floaters in the paint. However, he was a contributor to that horrific 11-of-33 mark from the restricted area, making just 1-of-5 shots at the rim.
Yet Antetokounmpo was an even bigger culprit. He made just 1-of-7 shots at the rim on Monday, with several missed bunnies that were inexcusable. He made just one of his other four shots, which all came on twos from outside the paint. He's really having a rough go of it thus far in his first playoff series.
The combination of Antetokounmpo and Carter-Williams together is killing the Bucks' offense. Through these first two games of the series, Carter-Williams has shot 9-of-25 from the field, while Antetokounmpo is 6-of-24. The duo has only attempted two three-pointers between them, and not surprisingly, both missed. Spacing is a major issue with these two on the court together because nobody respects their outside shooting:
Out of the top five most-used lineups featuring both Carter-Williams and Antetokounmpo on the floor this series, only the starting lineup has an offensive rating over 78. That unit is scoring 92.6 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com, which is terrible in its own right. These are very small sample sizes, and the duo actually had a good amount of success in the regular season, posting a 104.4 offensive rating together in 580 minutes. However, their flaws are being magnified in the postseason.
The Bucks have no chance of getting back into this series if those two don't start to perform better. We shouldn't expect them to start knocking down jumpers given their track records, but if they keep attacking the basket, you'd think those percentages at the rim will go up.