Mike Dunleavy’s importance to the Bulls cannot be understated, illustrated by his lights-out performance in the Game 6 clincher against the Milwaukee Bucks, where he hit everything in sight.
Unfortunately, he also hit a few players wearing Bucks uniforms, and you wonder if the NBA will take a look at his actions against Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo, which prompted retaliation from both and an ejection from Antetokounmpo.
It appeared as if Dunleavy gave Carter-Williams a shot to the neck when Carter-Williams drove the lane in the first quarter, followed by the second-year guard leaving the game for a short while with injury before returning. It also looked like he gave Antetokounmpo a shot near the face area later in the first half. On the same possession as Dunleavy was spotting up for a transition triple, Antetokounmpo was measuring Dunleavy, charging into him as Dunleavy unleashed a triple and sending the veteran forward sprawling into the stands for a four-point play.
“I don't wanna comment on it. It's a physical game, there's a lot going on,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau when asked about the possibility of losing Dunleavy, adding he didn't see the plays he was being asked about.
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Considering the hard look the NBA took at incidents in the Celtics-Cavaliers series in the first round, where things nearly got out of hand in the form of a Kevin Love injury and two-game J.R. Smith suspension, one has to wonder if the league will take action against Dunleavy before Game 1 of the highly-anticipated Bulls-Cavaliers series, which begins Monday in Cleveland.
With Smith out, the Bulls have a huge chance to steal one or both games in Cleveland, as the Cavaliers are adjusting to losing around 35 points in offensive production. If he’s available, Dunleavy’s shooting would be a big part of that.
Aside from his donut in Game 5, Dunleavy was red-hot in the first round against the Bucks, shooting 17-for-29 from 3-point range in the other five games. With the amount of attention Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler will draw against a Cavaliers defense that isn’t nearly as dynamic as the Bucks, Dunleavy’s availability to crack open things from the perimeter will be crucial.
As every hour passes by without hearing from the league office between now and Monday, the Bulls breathe an extra sigh of relief in hopes they won’t be a man down for the series opener.