MILWAUKEE — A few observations on the Bulls-Bucks series, where the Bulls can pull off a sweep and take a week of rest before the second round begins, presumably against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
1. The Milwaukee Bucks are giving them a great fight and will be a formidable foe in the future:
Like most teams down 3-0, the Bucks feel they’re a couple plays or moments away from being in this series or leading. That may be delusional thinking, but Khris Middleton did have a good look at the end of regulation Thursday night before the extra 10 minutes of basketball drained everyone in the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Bulls certainly played with fire throughout, as the Bucks gave them all they could handle before succumbing late. But a nucleus of Michael Carter-Williams, Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker is an excellent foundation to a future power in the East. The Bucks are going to go away for the summer soon, but they’re not a flash in the pan for future references. They’re going to be a legit threat in what should be a vastly improved Eastern Conference in the next couple years.
2. This is a different Derrick Rose:
A lot has changed in the NBA since that day Derrick Rose went down with his gut-wrenching knee injury in 2012, but somehow he’s expected to be the same, reckless and consciousless player that won the 2011 MVP. Just because he’s missed, in his words, “damn near three years,” it doesn’t mean his interpretation of the game is supposed to retard. Sitting on the sidelines may have thrown off his timing but the way he processes the game has continued its maturation.
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If you’re expecting to see THAT Derrick Rose, you’ll be waiting. But a player who sees the floor better, who utilizes his teammates more and yes, a player who shoots that streaky perimeter jumper more (46 percent 3-point shooter in this series), that’s what Rose is. What he lacks in explosiveness, Rose has gained in basketball IQ. His defense on Michael Carter-Williams was magnificent late in Game 3, and he was often in the scrums retrieving loose balls, helping his big men out before starting his Sonic the Hedgehog fast break. He hasn’t completely lost what made him special from an athletic standpoint; He’s more selective about when to employ his athleticism compared to using his brain, which should be a welcome sight.
3. Rose and Jimmy Butler play off each other better than expected:
Rose and Butler each have the ability to take over stretches of playoff games, which isn’t a surprise. But the way they’ve complemented each other while the other goes on a game-changing run should be noted. In Game 2, Butler tattooed his name on the game late, hitting jumpers and driving to the basket to close the Bucks out. But Rose did his part in feeding Butler and staying aggressive without disrupting Butler’s flow — a fine line to balance.
In Game 3, Butler did the same for Rose, concentrating a lot of energy on defense (note that step-in-front steal to start the second overtime) while also making himself enough of a threat to keep the Bucks from keying solely on Rose. If nothing else, the Bucks’ defensive intensity is great preparation for a Cleveland Cavaliers team that sorely lacks in that category — as Butler and Rose getting to know each other better here can only bode well for down the line.