MILWAUKEE — Those Bulls players who started this series with no playoff experience? Well, now they have a playoff win under their belt.
DeMar DeRozan made good on his promise of a better shooting night, scoring 41 points, and the Bulls held a double-digit lead most of the night before holding on for a 114-110 victory in Game 2 at Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The Bucks made one last run and went up 112-109 after a three-point play by Brook Lopez with 56.4 seconds left. On the Bulls’ next trip, they missed two shots but grabbed both offensive rebounds and eventually DeRozan scored on a driving inning to put up a 5-point lead with 18.2 seconds remaining. Alex Caruso charged Giannis Antetokounmpo with 4.9 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists, but he didn’t get enough help as both Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis left the game with injuries.
Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 13 rebounds for the Bulls, Zach LaVine added 20 points. Caruso with 10 assists and Patrick Williams with 9 rebounds were the main contributors.
Earlier in the day, Williams discussed the task of trying to defend two-time MVP Antetokounmpo. That’s a challenge for anyone, least of all a 20-year-old forward who missed 65 games this season with a left wrist injury.
“It’s the same way you prepare for anybody else,” Williams said after morning shootout. “First of all, don’t be scared. I feel like a lot of people in this league are scared or nervous about protecting guys like that.
“Obviously, he’s good. He’s a two-time MVP. But he puts on his pants the same way I do. I just know he’s good, but he’s not God.”
Williams is young, but he’s also the only Bulls player with physical abilities who can begin to match Antetokounmpo in size and speed. So he’s in the starting lineup with that specific defensive goal in mind, getting help from his smaller teammates Caruso and Javonte Green.
“It sure is weirdly athletic, weirdly long,” Williams said. “So when you attack him, if you don’t have help from your teammates, you’re pretty much done. So I think we’ve done a great job of protecting him with five guys on the floor. Everybody’s kind of locked into the plan. game and the whole world is changing for me, changing for whoever protects it. I think we did a good job.
“It’s tough, but so is being in the NBA, being in the playoffs, getting to the playoffs. It’s tough, but our job is tough. This is a job for the best athletes in the world, so it’s tough.” but I think it’s definitely doable.”
Some observers would say the low-scoring Game 1 was poorly played. But the Bulls were proud of their defensive effort in a 93-86 loss, holding Milwaukee to its lowest point total since December.
“Hands down one of our best defensive games of the year,” DeRozan said after shooting practice. “Okay, everyone wants to shoot better, but you can’t completely control that. But we control our effort on the defensive end and that’s something you could definitely be proud of and we have to understand to do it again in Game.” 2 even at a higher level.”
The Bulls used 10 players on Sunday and have a fairly even mix of veterans and playoff newcomers. DeRozan, Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr. and Tristan Thompson have all come a long way in the playoffs. Williams, Zach LaVine, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu made their postseason debuts in Game 1.
Williams described the increased intensity compared to the regular season.
“The intensity is definitely different,” he said. “It just feels like a game that matters. We’ve had games throughout the season where there’s two or three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the game is tied, now it’s like the whole 48 minutes is like that.”