A sense of fear accompanied the Chicago Bulls on Interstate 94 during their first post-season game in five years.
No one gave them a chance in their first round series with the Milwaukee Bucks. Even the most optimistic Bulls fans were just hoping to see some good games before heading out into the offseason and paying attention to the baseball season.
Changing the story in Game 1 against Bucks would seem to have been necessary if the Bulls wanted to make this series competitive. But when a minute and a half later Janis Antetokunmpa scored a 3-point lead and quickly put the Bucks ahead 9-0, it seemed that the game was decided before the first State Farm commercial.
There was no need for spoilers. We’ve all seen this movie before.
But on the way to the explosion at the Fiserv Forum a funny thing happened.
The Bulls moved away from a 16-point deficit to make the game, only to watch the Bucks hold on to the 93-86 victory.
Nikolai Vuchevich’s 24 points and 17 rebounds were not enough, as the Bucks sighed with relief in the wild game. Atetokunmpa led the Bucks with 27 points and 16 rebounds, dominating, as in last year’s postseason.
“It’s hard,” Zach Lavine said. “After that first little launch they had in the first quarter, we fought back and let them know we were here. I think it will be a good match. “
LaVin and Demar DeRozan threw badly, scoring 18 points in the combined shooting 12 to 44. Vucevic had 9 out of 27, and he and LaVin were together 4 out of 20 on 3. The fact that the “Bulls” were able to overcome this – and the lack of 47 -37 on the boards – and still have a chance, should boost their confidence in game 2.
“It wasn’t just me,” Derozan said of his weekend. “All of us. We just have to feel it. Every shot I made felt good. I guarantee – me, Zach and Vuch will not miss so many pictures again. We just have to continue (do) what we did in defense, and try to take it (shooting) to another level. ”
The Bulls Nation was well represented in Game 1, with enough fans playing along the way to loudly whistle to Grayson Allen when the Bucks guard stepped in the first quarter and every time he jumped off the bench. Bucks fans cannot be blamed for treating this first-round series as a belated thought and putting their tickets on the resale market.
They are coming in June, and the snow forecast for Monday seemed still far away.
The Deere area – a hotspot outside the Fiserv Forum that Milwaukee made famous during last year’s championship – was mostly empty to the hint. Probable factors were the temperature of the 30s and the early evening, which began on Easter Sunday, not to mention the enemy, whom no one in the city took seriously. Bucks fans at some point started chanting “O-ver-ra-ted” to the Bulls as if they had clashed with a college team.
The bulls didn’t care about the extraneous noise. They knew their task and that a win in Game 1 would have muffled all talk of a short series.
If the Bucks were going to lose the game in the series, it was assumed it would be that game. The Bucks have been 1-6 in the first game over the last two post-seasons, but Bulls coach Billy Donavan said it made no sense to “go back and talk about what happened a year or two or three years ago in Game 1 of the series play the first round and say it’s a trend. “
The Bulls brushed off their dreadful start and went 51-43 at the break, but Antekounkumpa already had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and the Bulls scored 31.7% off the field and 17.6% off the 3-point distance. The series was played out as most imagined.
“They really hurt us on the shield, and if they’re there and we get heels, we should be able to run,” Donavan said. “We did a lot of hasty pull-ups, fast 3s. We should try to go down to the basket and then spray it. ”
But the Bulls slowly retreated into the third, and when Vucevic scored 3 with a score of 4:39 by the end of the quarter, the game was even, and Bulls fans erupted in unison, making the Fiserv Forum sound like United Center North. Kobe White inflicted 3 to bring the Bulls to first place, and turned the score behind the wheel into the next possession.
Since then it has been a thriller back and forth to the end. The Bucks led 87-82 2 and a half minutes before the end when Derozan hit the jumper and repulsed Brooke Lopez’s miss. A backdoor pass from Vucevic to Alex Caruso led to a gap that reduced the deficit to one.
The Bulls had chances at the last minute, but Vuchevich missed the reverse, and LaVine missed a 3-point attempt 30 seconds before the end. Jrou Holliday’s two free throws 15.3 seconds before the end turned out to be daggers.
Derozan agreed that it was a missed opportunity to steal the start on the road.
“They were doing what they were supposed to do at home,” he said. “We have another opportunity to steal the home court. That is our goal now.
“We have a lot that we can highlight from this game … to clean up and become the best. Definitely sad to miss the opportunity. But we have another opportunity in Milwaukee before we return to Chicago. ”
In fact the Bulls returned to Chicago after the game to sleep in their beds and practice at the Advocacy Center on Monday and Tuesday. Donovan said a short trip home and a two-day break could be to their advantage.
“The convenience of accommodation was good, at least in terms of end-of-year travel,” he said. “It’s one thing I thought was great during the playoffs (2020) – no travel, just a bus from the hotel to Disney and back.
“It simply came to our notice then. If we had a day between them, we would definitely stay here. But since we have two days (weekends), we have the opportunity to get home at a decent time, and these guys can sleep in their bed, exercise (Monday) and Tuesday and come back. ”
The Bulls can sleep well knowing they made the Bucks work to win game 1. But if they want to make it a long series, they have to do a little more.