The Chicago Bulls can only hope the second attempt to tie their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks works out as well as the first.
The host Bulls look to square their series against the Bucks at two wins apiece in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.
The Central Division rivals were separated by just five games in the regular season. Third-seeded Milwaukee recorded the series’ first blowout on Friday night with a 111-81 victory in Chicago.
The difference in the three games is clear: The one game they shot well (49.4 percent overall, 48.0 percent on 3-pointers), the sixth-seeded Bulls posted a 114-110 win. The two that they haven’t, they’ve lost.
Patrick Williams has been the greatest example of the roller-coaster ride. He had 10 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the Game 2 win, but a total of just six points on 1-for-12 shooting in the losses.
Alas, the heavy weight of playoff success — or lack thereof — usually falls upon the star players, and all three of Chicago’s big guns – DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic – have been inconsistent in the series.
They combined for 85 points on 33-for-62 shooting in Game 2, but just an average of 52.5 points on 39-for-110 shooting in the losses.
The inconsistent results have sparked the debate leading into Game 4: Do you blame the Chicago offense or credit the Milwaukee defense?
“You’ve got to make shots,” LaVine insisted. “It’s a miss-or-make league. You can do what you can on defense, but we get on the offensive end, we’ve got to make shots — me, Vooch, DeMar. We’ve got to do our job.”
According to Bucks veteran Bobby Portis, Game 3 was won on Thursday — the one day Milwaukee had to learn from its home loss and get mentally prepared to move forward without a key contributor.
“It’s always about adjustments in a seven-game series,” Portis said. “That’s why it’s called a series. Obviously they’re going to make an adjustment (for Game 4). They’re going to come back and be prepared. We have to be ready for that.
“The biggest thing, the challenge, is to give guys different looks. In this league, players are so talented and so good that if you give them a heavy dose of the same thing, time after time after time, obviously at some point they are going to figure it out.”
Every adjustment the Bucks have made offensively in the series seems to have worked. They’ve gone from 40.5 percent shooting to 46.3 and then to 47.3. At the same time, they went from 10 made 3-pointers to 14 and then to 15.
In Game 3, Grayson Allen provided the different look the Bulls had not seen in the first two games. He made five 3-pointers in seven attempts en route to finishing with 22 points off the bench, after having missed all four of his 3-point attempts and totaled just three points in the first two games.
Khris Middleton, who suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee in Game 2, is expected to miss the remainder of the series.
–Field Level Media