Early in the third quarter of Game 2, second year swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo took a handoff from Zaza Pachulia on the left wing, dribbled for 6 seconds as the shot clock wound down and missed a 19-footer over Pau Gasol. It was one small sequence in a game the Bucks were competitive throughout, but also a microcosm of the poor offense they've displayed in the first two games of their series with the Bulls.
For a second straight game the defensive minded Bucks struggled from the field, scoring 82 points on a night in which their defense was good enough to earn a victory. And as was the case in Saturday night's loss, ball movement again was the culprit. After a Game 1 in which they passed more than 100 times less than their opponent, per NBA.com, the Bucks were stagnant with the ball in their hands, too often settled for jump shots and failed to capitalize in a game where they turned the ball over just four times. The Bucks finished with 13 assists on 32 made field goals, including two in the decisive fourth quarter of their 91-82 loss.
It was a stark contrast to what made the Bucks successful this season, ranking 7th in the NBA in assists per game (23.4) and field goals made (62.4 percent). On a team with few, if any, isolation scorers ball movement was bound to be an important tactic against a Bulls defense not giving anything easy. Instead, they took open jumpers Tom Thibodeau's defense was clearly allowing them and didn't take advantage of aggressive run-outs on Chicago's 3-point defense.
"We’re not built like that," said shooting guard O.J. Mayo. "We’ve got to do a better job of creating shots for each other. Offensively 13 assists is not going to cut it."
Added Zaza Pachulia: "It’s terrible for our team, especially the way we’ve been playing all year long sharing the ball."
Still, the Bucks feel as though they're making strides. There were positives to take away from the loss, even on the offensive side of the ball. The four turnovers were a great sign from a team whose rotation features four players making their playoff debuts at 23 years old or younger.
Also, the Bucks were able to find their way into the lane, attempting 43 shots in the paint (though they made just 18 of those). Whereas their first quarter in Game 1, scoring 29 points, was a case of "fool's gold," as Jason Kidd put it, that got the Bucks into thinking they could compete in a shootout, Game 2 featured a slower, half court game where the two teams combined for just eight fast break points.
But ball movement will be the key that takes Milwaukee from simply competing late in games to closing contests out. It's an area in which the Bulls are perhaps playing their best; in the first two games the Bulls have assisted on a whopping 81 percent of their made field goals. That number has largely increased due to the Bucks double-teaming Pau Gasol throughout most of the series, with the Bulls rotating to find open shooters (24 made 3-pointers in the first two games) but it's an area the Bucks can exploit off dribble-drive penetration from Carter-Williams, Antetokounmpo and Mayo.
"We've got to take another step offensively, he said. "The ball's got to move from side-to-side and better shot selection for this young team. It's something we've got to learn on the fly."