With the Bulls' playoff run getting set to kick off Saturday evening, the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t expected to provide much of a challenge, but there are a few players who can give the Bulls problems and make this a more competitive series than most expect:
Michael Carter-Williams: The vision is still vivid as Carter-Williams repeatedly backed down Aaron Brooks for 15 straight points in the second quarter of the Bucks’ lone win this season. Derrick Rose was out and for some reason the Bulls didn’t put Jimmy Butler on Carter-Williams, a player of like size, to slow him down.
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It was the only time Carter-Williams played against the Bulls and he scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in their 95-91 win at the Bradley Center. At his best, he can give the Bulls matchup problems on the block and in transition, especially if he goes to the glass and gets the rebound himself.
Rose is stronger and bigger, of course, but he isn’t 6-foot-6 and Carter-Williams will try him.
Khris Middleton: The third-year swingman doesn’t get much attention with Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo around, but he’ll be near the top of the Bulls’ scouting report before Saturday. In his first season under Jason Kidd, his offensive rating raised to 109 points per 100 possessions while his defensive rating dropped to 102 from a 113, a remarkable change considering many thought he wasn’t anywhere near a plus defender.
But his sweet spot is his shooting, and he’s one of the league’s premier three-point shooters, shooting 41 percent from three the past two years.
He shot just 27 percent from the three in the four games against the Bulls, but that could very well be an anomaly and he seems like the type that can shine in a playoff series.
Middleton can get his shot in tight spaces without having to do much with the dribble, and can benefit off guard penetration. He’s quiet, but deadly.
Zaza Pachulia: A man who averages 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds wouldn’t normally be someone to watch, but he’s the type of player nobody wants to see on the other side. He bumps and bangs and irritates you to no end — and he plans to make life miserable for Pau Gasol.
Gasol scored a career-high 46 points and 18 rebounds in a game Rose missed with knee soreness, a stat line Kidd likely reminded everyone of in days leading to Game 1. Everyone knows Gasol doesn’t like to be hit and taken off his sweet spots, which is precisely what the Bucks did in their lone win this season. It’s up to the Bulls to make sure Pachulia doesn’t have that affect this series.