Bucks may try to get more physical in Game 2 vs. Bulls


Bucks may try to get more physical in Game 2 vs. Bulls

If Game 1 is the courting phase of a typical playoff series, the second game is usually the adjustment game, especially for a young team like the Milwaukee Bucks.

And considering Jason Kidd made a couple poignant comments after the game, one can surmise at the very least, more attention paid to and physical treatment to one Derrick Rose.

Rose got to the basket whenever he chose to in the Bulls’ 103-91 win Saturday, leading to the Bucks coach bemoaning how easy it was, believing it set up Rose to hit those three triples in the third that put some distance between the two teams.

“He showcased he can do layups very well,” Kidd said. “He got to the rim without resistance and whenever you do that, the jumpshots, the basket is big and he knocked those down in the second half.”

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You don’t have to read between the lines to see what Kidd meant there, and it wouldn’t be stretch to see more aggressive play with Rose. The final score says one thing but the game was well within reach with eight minutes left in the third quarter before it was blown open. So Kidd likely believes Rose’s explosion merits more treatment.

“We were in a good seat,” Kidd said. “We had some layups that we couldn’t convert when we had the numbers. Now we gotta go back and look and figure out how to get one on Monday.”

The Bucks are already one of the league’s most versatile defensive teams, the single most impressive aspect that brought them from a 15-win team last season to a six-seed in the East.

“They’re a very good defensive team. They’ve been that all year,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “People have been physical with Derrick before. Derrick has a very unique skill set because he combines the power and strength with the speed and quickness. That type of stuff he handles very well.”

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Thibodeau and Bulls reserve Taj Gibson agreed the series will only get more physical as it progresses. And it’s not like the Bucks gave the Bulls the kid gloves treatment in Game 1, as Pau Gasol and the rest of the bigs were knocking each other around like pinballs for most of the night.

“They’re doubling Pau more,” Thibodeau said. “They have a very aggressive defense, trapping dribble handoffs, pick-and-rolls, the low post. You gotta be ready to handle that.”

Gasol became a main point of attention due to his career-high 46-point game in an earlier meeting. It resulted in the Bucks meeting Gasol past halfcourt, knocking him off his spots and forcing him to take more jump shots. That approach worked in Game 1, as he shot just five for 17.

“I guess that made them react,” Gasol said. “Just like they’ll probably react to something we did yesterday differently. So we just got be ready for the adjustments that they’re going to make against us, read the game, and make it easy for each other.’’

But the Bucks have to pick and choose who they swarm, and the Bulls have three guys who can easily score 20 points in Gasol, Rose and Jimmy Butler. But Rose being the point guard means he has more control than the others.

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“It opens up the offense for a lot of other guys,” Gibson said. “It makes it much more easier, takes a load off Jimmy and Pau, guys that are struggling at first but get in a rhythm late. That’s real big for us late in the game, especially those big time 3-pointers when we need them.”

Gibson, who said he’s okay after straining his right knee in the second half, expects the intensity and physical play to ramp up from the Bucks.

“I feel better today,” Gibson said. “I’m starting to give a lot of respect to football players. When you go 100 miles per hour every play in the playoffs, things are gonna happen. But I feel fine.

“Yeah it’s gonna be more physical. I know that for a fact. After the first game every one is a lot more intense.”

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago


Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.