Heading into Game 5 of the first-round playoffs, the Chicago Bulls have been somewhat exposed by the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks were bottom dwellers last year. And, now, a .500 team is giving the Bulls fits. And, this is without their star, Jabari Parker. Chicago leads 3-1 in the series and needs one more win to advance to face Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Does Chicago want to make it easy or difficult to get that 4th game?
The Bulls are just too inconsistent to be considered a title threat this year. One quarter the team looks terrific, defending well, blocking shots, moving in transition, Rose or Mirotic hitting the open trey. Or they look for Gasol to post up his man. Noah can wreak havoc on the boards, or Taj Gibson can swoop in at any moment and slam the loose ball down for a basket.
That has happened in games. But not in a back to back situation for at least a few weeks. The Bulls won 50 games despite injuries to Rose, Butler, and Noah. Gibson missed games too. Those players are back and this is the playoffs.
I like Coach Thibodeau but it seems the writing may be on the wall for him in Chicago. There is enough back office intrigue do to fill a few sports pages. It does seems that the love affair is over between management and coach. On a basketball level, there is cause for concern. The team is making too many on court mistakes to sustain a ten point lead. That forces the team to work harder and expend more effort and guys are playing a lot of minutes. Butler played 40 minutes recently. Rose 39 minutes the other day. Gasol has also played a lot of minutes.
If and when Chicago does play the Cavs, there may not be enough left in the tank. One can easily see Lebron James surging through a tired team to score some meekly contested basket. If that happens a few times, and Kyrie Irving bombs away from deep territory, this will be a short series. And, all will not end well in the Windy City.
Kevin Love could be out for some games, maybe the entire series. J.R. Smith might be suspended for a game. Frankly, the Bulls need all the help they can get. And, they have a deep bench.
First dispatch the Bucks, do it efficiently, and get some rest. The Bulls will need it because Cleveland is a step up from Milwaukee.