CHICAGO – The Milwaukee Bucks are now one win away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs after beating the Chicago Bulls 119-95 in Game 4 on Sunday. The win puts the Bucks up 3-1 in the series, with an opportunity to wrap things up Wednesday at home.
The Bulls started Game 4 stronger than the previous game, feeding on the energy of the fans inside a tense United Center. However, Milwaukee never gave up the lead from start to finish and managed to enter the halftime again with a double-digit lead. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 32 points in the win, while reserve guard Grayson Allen came off the bench for the second straight game with 27 points.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Bulls got 24 points from Zach LaVine, plus 23 points from DeMar DeRozan and another 20 points from Patrick Williams. But that wasn’t enough as the Bucks took care of business quite easily and picked up another win.
Here are three takeaways from Game 4 between the Bucks and Bulls.
1. Still by Grayson Allen
After dropping 22 points in Game 3, Allen again torched the Bulls to the tune of a 27-point performance. Who could have predicted that after All-Star forward Khris Middleton went down in Game 2, Allen would be the one to step up in his absence? The craziest thing about it is that he did all that damage off the bench for the Bucks.
After the Game 3 win, Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer praised Allen’s underrated skill of powerand while a lot of Allen’s buckets came from beyond the arc, he again took advantage of the defensive pressure the Bulls were showing Giannis and got to the edge basically when he wanted to.
Besides Allen’s offense, his defense was also a huge win for the Bucks. He had three interceptions in the first half as he tried to disrupt Chicago’s offense. He had a clean strip on Bulls guard Coby White in the first quarter, which led to an easy layup at the other end. Then in the second quarter, he provided great defensive assist to DeRozan and forced him to spit the ball out.
Allen, who received a slew of boos from Bulls fans every time he touched the ball following a serious foul he inflicted on Chicago guard Alex Caruso early in the season, thrived in the hostile environment Chicago fans have created over the past two games. . As a player who’s no stranger to being hated by opposing fanbases dating back to the days of Duke, it feels like Allen thrives on animosity. Even his teammates have taken to booing him whenever he does something good.
“They’re hilarious, I didn’t even tell them to do this, they just started doing it on their own,” Allen said after Game 4. “Now it’s just gonna become a thing, I think they boo me probably for the rest of the playoffs.”
Bucks guard Jrue Holiday agreed with Allen’s sentiment that the Bucks will continue to boo him going forward.
“It started just with the fans booing him, but he gets restless when [we’re] booing him,” Holiday said. “Maybe that means something to him, some form of support. We’re going to boo him like crazy again.”
While Allen is familiar with the boos raining down on him, it’s not something he’s become completely familiar with during his playing career. Although he started embracing it with the Bucks this season.
“I would always say it’s not naturally comfortable for me, but now I’m at the point where – I mean every time I go out and play basketball, I just remember having fun with it,” Allen said. “So I have fun with it, I guess you could say because I play basketball. That’s what I love to do. The ultimate joy for me is to play, to have fun and to play freely.
“Yet even though my personality is naturally uncomfortable with attention, boos, heckling. So it’s not something I like to feed off of, like I don’t go out looking like “Oh I love it, you know? I go out and have fun.”
Although Allen says he doesn’t thrive on boos, it worked for him and the Bucks, so Milwaukee might as well keep going.
2. The Bulls’ regular season trend is coming to an end
Chicago finished Game 4 with its bench with just 17 points (not including recovery time points). In game 3, the second unit was only 16 points. Compare that to the 35 points Milwaukee got from their bench in Sunday’s win on top of the reserves’ 33 points in Game 3 and you can see the glaring disparity. But that’s not entirely abnormal for the Bulls this season.
During the regular season, Chicago ranked 29th in the league in bench points per game (26.7), and that stat has only gotten worse, averaging just 16.8 points in four games, ranking last among playoff teams. It’s been a general storyline for the Bulls all season, leaning heavily on DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic and living with the results. It worked in the regular season against mediocre competition, but the Bulls went 2-21 combined against the league’s top eight teams this season, showing that while they can get easy wins, they don’t have not yet been able to compete with the elite of the NBA. Even in Chicago’s Game 2 win at Milwaukee, it took DeRozan to score 41 points to lead the Bulls to victory.
But since that offensive outburst from DeRozan, Milwaukee has done a great job of containing him and LaVine, forcing the others to beat them. So far, no one on the Chicago team has been able to take advantage of the open looks they’re getting, as the entire offensive workload has fallen on the shoulders of the Bulls’ Big 3. Facing elimination on Wednesday, the Bulls will need to get the most out of their players if they are to stand a chance.
3. An MVP performance from Giannis
In Game 3, Giannis was able to put things on cruise control as the Bucks got great production from guys like Allen, Bobby Portis and Holiday. While Giannis still appeared to be functioning at around 70% capacity, he showed why he was a two-time league MVP with a championship to his name.
The Bulls tried everything to slow down the Greek Freak, but no amount of defensive pressure could slow him down. He threw off defenders at will on his way to the rim and displayed his strength with every difficult finish.
Watch how he dominates Williams in the paint and twists his body to always get the bucket:
Or this possession, where he gets the block on defense and goes coast to coast for the finish:
Oh, and we can’t forget that transition bucket where he spins between two Bulls defensemen to easily get to the edge:
When he wasn’t heading for the basket, he was drawing two defenders inside the paint and showing off his passing skills with well-placed subs all afternoon. Antetokounmpo finished the game with seven assists, as he excelled at reading the defense and finding the guy open on the perimeter for a good look.
“[When] they are open, I have to pass the ball to them,” Antetokounmpo said. I like when everyone gets involved, when everyone touches [the ball]when everyone is shooting.”
Well, Giannis’ teammates certainly felt the benefits of his pitch vision throughout the game, and they were successful in knocking down shots. With Middleton sidelined, the Bucks couldn’t ask for two best performances from their team. With Antetokounmpo leading and guys like Allen and Portis stepping up, Milwaukee managed to completely dominate this series and have a chance to put the Bulls at home on Wednesday.