The Milwaukee Bucks face off with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA playoff’s first round. The defending champion Bucks went 51-31 in 2021-22, earning the third seed in the East. The Bulls went 46-36, good enough for the East’s sixth seed. Chicago will play in the postseason for the first time in five seasons. The Bucks swept the Bulls in the regular season 4-0. Will Milwaukee cruise into the second round? Or will the Bulls make it a series? Let’s find out.
|Bucks in 4 (+240)||Bulls in 4 (+7500)|
|Bucks in 5 (+175)||Bulls in 5 (+5000)|
|Bucks in 6 (+400)||Bulls in 6 (+1600)|
|Bucks in 7 (+500)||Bulls in 7 (+1600)|
It is hard to fathom how the Bulls sat atop the Eastern Conference just a couple of months ago when you look at some of their splits this season. The Bulls went just 16-26 against playoff teams in the 2021-22 regular season. Chicago also went 7-15 over its final 22 games and ranked 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) this season. The Bulls had just one player (Nikola Vucevic) who ranked in the league’s top 115 in defensive win shares.
Chicago’s lack of depth is a cause for concern. With Lonzo Ball out for the season, the Bulls do not have anyone besides its core three of Demar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic, in this series that ranked in the league’s top 140 in VORP (value over replacement player). Although DeRozan had arguably the best season of his career, averaging career highs in points per game (27.9) and field goal percentage (50.4%), he will be relying on the likes of Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso to play major roles in this series. That’s not going to cut it against the defending champs.
Milwaukee’s playoff rotation looks like it will be awfully similar to last year’s. The Bucks’ big three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday is arguably the best 1-2-3 punch in the NBA. Antetokounmpo had another ridiculous season, averaging 29.9 PPG, 11.6 RPG, and 5.8 APG, while finishing second in the league in both win shares and VORP. Middleton averaged over 20 PPG for the third straight season and tied his career-high average for assists (5.4 per game). Holiday averaged 18.3 PPG, 6.8 APG, and 1.6 SPG for the season.
The Bucks ranked third in the league in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) this season. Much of their success offensively this year can be attributed to the production the Bucks got from their role players. Bobby Portis averaged a career-high in points (14.6 PPG) and rebounds (9.1) and shot just under 40% from beyond the arc. Grayson Allen put up a career-high 11.1 PPG and shot 40.9% from downtown. Pat Connaughton posted a career-high 9.9 PPG and shot 39.5% from deep. The Bucks also got Brook Lopez back towards the end of the regular season. He averaged 12.4 PPG in 22.9 minutes over 13 games.
Prediction and Best Bet
The Bucks should dominate offensively in this series. Chicago’s lackluster defense is going to have an incredibly hard time slowing down a Milwaukee team that can score from the top to the bottom of its rotation. The Bucks are much deeper and their core of stars is way better than Chicago’s. I’ll give Chicago a game in this series – it is very tough to go 8-0 against anybody in a season – but I don’t see this series getting to six games. Give me the Bucks in five.
Best Bet: Bucks in 5 (+175 at DraftKings)
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