What appeared to be a cakewalk is slowly turning into a disaster for the Milwaukee Bucks. The third-seeded Bucks drew the sixth-seeded Chicago Bulls, a team they swept in the regular season, in the opening round of the playoffs. On paper, it was quite the mismatch.
If not for a disastrous shooting night in the series opener, the Bulls would be up 2-0 in the series, heading back to Chicago for Game 3.
For Milwaukee, this goes way beyond losing homecourt advantage. They are left holding their breath as sharpshooter Khris Middleton awaits an MRI on his knee.
The Milwaukee Bucks have been outplayed by the Chicago Bulls
The Bucks are fortunate they aren’t down 2-0. In the opener, the Bulls shot 32.3% from the floor but managed to hold a one-point lead with six minutes left in the game. Had they put up a respectable shooting performance, the Bucks would be staring at a serious deficit.
The Bulls seemed to take some comfort in the Game 1 loss, knowing they hung tough with the reigning NBA champions despite poor shooting and a slow start. Milwaukee scored the first nine points of the game and led by as many as 16 points.
“I thought we did a good job with us shooting this way and defending the way we did, keeping the game going,” Chicago’s Zach LaVine said, per The Chicago Tribune. “We had a lot of missed opportunities.”
DeMar DeRozan, who went 6-for-25 in Game 1, bounced back with 41 points in Chicago’s 114-110 victory in a game that wasn’t all that close. With 9:47 remaining the Bulls held a 96-80 lead. The Bucks made a run n the final seven minutes but couldn’t overcome the deficit.
“No matter what you did in the regular season, this is a brand new start and new mindset,” DeRozan said, per ESPN. “You could see it in all the guys. It doesn’t matter if we’d lost 20 times to those guys. This is an opportunity for us to compete. We’ve got to take advantage of it.”
The Milwaukee Bucks await word on Khris Middleton’s injury
Not only have the Bulls played with the Bucks, but they could play Milwaukee at home without one of the Bucks’ biggest stars.
Middleton left Wednesday night’s game with a sprained medial collateral ligament midway through the fourth quarter. He slipped while going to the basket and favored his left leg as he headed to the locker room.
“You expect him to get up and walk it off and get back to the game, but you see that he was limping and limping and limping and you’re thinking like, ‘Oh, I hope it’s not bad, I hope it’s not bad,'” Bucks teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo said, according to ESPN.
“We need this guy. When he asks for a sub, you know that it’s bothering him because he doesn’t leave the game.”
Middleton’s availability for the rest of the series is unknown. He’s scheduled to undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of the injury.
Middleton isn’t the only player the Bucks are concerned about when it comes to injury
Middleton struggled early during Wednesday’s loss but heated up as the game went on, finishing with 18 points. He left the game just as the Bucks began to make their late run.
Middleton is not the only player the Bucks are concerned about. Bobby Portis got clocked in the face by a Tristan Thompson elbow while battling for a rebound in the first quarter. Portis left the game and warmed up at halftime but returned to the locker room. He never returned.
Before the game, the Bucks learned that guard George Hill will remain out for the foreseeable future with an abdominal strain.
“We don’t expect him in the short term,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
Injuries are a part of the game. The Bucks have dealt with them all season. For now, they need to find a way to simply contain the Bulls as they head on the road for Game 3.