Bulls vs Bucks – Game Preview – April 17, 2022

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MILWAUKEE — — Defending champion Milwaukee Bucks are playing down their recent dominance over the Chicago Bulls as they open the playoff portion of their title defense.

Milwaukee, the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, has won 16 of its last 17 meetings with the sixth-seeded Bulls, who are heading to their first-round series beginning Sunday at Fiserv Forum. The Bulls’ only win came in the 2020-21 regular season finale, when the Bucks rested all of their starters.

“They’re a great team,” Bucks forward and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We played against them and obviously in the regular season we were able to win a few games against them. But they’re going to come out, they’re going to play hard and they’re going to make it as difficult for us as possible. »

Each of the two times they have met in the past month, the Bucks have beaten the Bulls by at least 21 points.

Bulls forward Tristan Thompson, who won a title and made four straight NBA Finals appearances with Cleveland from 2015-2018, believes regular-season dominance in a particular series doesn’t necessarily translate to the playoffs. playoffs.

“You have a week to prepare for a team,” Thompson said. “It’s different in the regular season, where you have to (play) like three different teams in a week. He’s just the same guy you’re going to see for a week, get to know him really well. You’ll probably hate him in match 3, but you get to know him very well, to know his tendencies.

Chicago has had the best record in the East for much of the season, but has lost 15 of its last 22 games. The Bulls have struggled without Lonzo Ball, who hasn’t played since Jan. 14 and isn’t available for the playoffs with a torn meniscus in his left knee.

The Bulls are just 2-21 against the top four seeds in each conference. The Bucks remain wary.

“The playoffs are tricky, man,” Bucks forward Bobby Portis said. “You can’t disrespect anyone, disrespect your opponents just because of what’s happened in the past. You still have to go out and play basketball and have the proper respect for everyone in there- down and let the dominoes fall as they fall.

LAVIN’S MOMENT

Chicago’s Zach LaVine finally gets to perform on the playoff stage. Considering he’s in his eighth year, it certainly hasn’t been an easy road.

The Olympic gold medalist and two-time All-Star went through major rebuilding efforts in Minnesota and Chicago, never winning more than 31 games in his first seven seasons. He is on his sixth coach, with Billy Donovan completing his second year at Chicago.

“I think Zach always prioritized winning, always wanted to win,” Donovan said. “It has always been important to him. So for me personally, I’m happy for him because you see the work he’s doing.

LaVine is averaging 24.4 points despite persistent pain in his left knee for the past few months.

IN SEARCH OF A FASTER START

The Bucks have lost Game 1 in five of the six playoff series they have played in the past two seasons. The exception was a first-round sweep of the Miami Heat in the opening round last year.

Milwaukee rallied from 2-0 deficits to win the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Brooklyn and the NBA Finals against Phoenix.

DEROZAN’S FREE THROWS

Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan ranked fourth in the NBA with 7.8 free throw attempts per game, and the Bulls will need the All-Star forward to get to the line often in this series.

His free throw totals against the Bucks have fluctuated wildly.

In the first meeting between these teams, DeRozan went 17 of 18 from the line and had the most free throws made and attempted of any Bucks opponent all season. He went a combined 13 of 13 from the line in the other three Bucks-Bulls games. He didn’t attempt a free throw in a 126-98 loss at Milwaukee on March 22.

“He’s incredibly good at getting to the free throw line,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think we’ve spent probably more time and effort throughout the season and continuing this week trying to figure out all the details, all the little things it takes to defend him flawlessly, the mental discipline , mental toughness.”

ALLEN AGAINST. BULLS

The Bucks are guarding Grayson Allen to get a hostile reception from the crowd when the Bucks visit Chicago.

In the first meeting between these teams this season, Allen committed a flagrant foul on Alex Caruso that caused the Bulls guard to fracture his right wrist. Allen was ejected and given a one-game suspension. Caruso missed almost two months.

BULLS ASSISTANTS OUT

The Bulls will be shorthanded on the bench for at least Game 1, after assistant coaches Chris Fleming and Damian Cotter tested positive for COVID-19.

Donovan said both had mild symptoms. He didn’t know how long they would be gone.

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.

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