Score Bucks vs. Bulls, Conclusions: Milwaukee dominates Chicago in Game 3, takes control of best-of-seven series

The Milwaukee Bucks went into Game 3 of their best-of-seven series against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night without the services of All-Star winger Khris Middleton, and honestly, it didn’t make a difference. Milwaukee dominated Chicago from start to finish, with the Bucks winning 111-81 at the United Center and taking a 2-1 series lead.

Milwaukee had five players finishing the win with 10 points or more with Grayson Allen leading with 22 points off the bench. Giannis Antetokounmpo only played 29 minutes, but managed to finish the game with 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. On the other hand, Nikola Vucevic led Chicago with 19 points but needed 17 shots to get to that point.

Here are four main takeaways from the game:

1. Bucks lock defensively

The Bucks have had some defensive issues this season, and they showed up again earlier this week in Game 2 when DeMar DeRozan lost to 41 points and the Bulls hit nearly 50% of the field. They have the talent to be the elite at that end of the court, however, and in Game 3 we saw what happens when they ramp up the intensity.

A few minutes from the first quarter. Jrue Holiday was matched with DeRozan, who tried to use a Nikola Vucevic canvas. Holiday didn’t want that and sneaked in between DeRozan and Vucevic to blast that option. DeRozan then changed direction and tried to turn left, but Holiday was on top of that too and smothered him when he caught his dribble. As DeRozan tried to find space for a pass, Holiday kicked the ball away and went back-to-back for a layup.

Plays like Holiday’s set the tone for the night, as the Bucks harassed the Bulls all over the court, and did so without fouling. Holiday and Wesley Matthews kept DeRozan at 11 points on nine field goal attempts, and the Bulls hit 39.3% of the field as a team. There was nothing easy for the Bulls at any time, exemplified by the fact that they couldn’t even make it to the free-throw line. The Bulls’ 10 free throw attempts were the second lowest in any game this season.

2. No Middleton, no problem

Late in Game 2, Khris Middleton slipped on a wet spot on the Fiserv Forum floor and sprained his anterior cruciate ligament. He’s now out of the rest of the series and likely part of the second round if the Bucks make it that far. To ensure Middleton gets the chance to play again this season, they will need the supporting cast to step up as they did on Friday night.

Mike Budenholzer decided to go big and started Bobby Portis in place of Middleton. This turned out to be a smart move, as Portis scored eight points in the first five minutes to help the Bucks open up a big lead they would never give up. Portis, who missed most of Game 2 after being elbowed in the eye and is now playing with goggles, finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds in a tremendous game.

He wasn’t the only one who had a great night. Grayson Allen, who is Chicago’s Public Enemy No. 1 due to his blatant early-season foul on Alex Caruso, silenced the United Center crowd with a stellar shooting display. He dropped five 3s en route to a 22-point, six-rebound playoff.

The bank’s overall stats are skewed as there was a lot of junk time, so let’s just focus on Portis, Allen, and Pat Connaughton. These three, who will be most invoked in Middleton’s absence, had 51 points, 28 rebounds and 11 3-pointers. That’s probably the most the Bucks can expect from them on any given night, but if they can get 60-70% of that production, it’ll go a long way towards covering Middleton.

3. Bucks regain control with championship-level performance

The Bucks didn’t look much like the defending champions in games 1 and 2 at home. Even if you admit they missed some open shots, offense was a slog, they were extremely sloppy with the ball (36 turnovers combined in the first two games) and there were some lapses in defense – especially in Game 2.

Most are still hoping they’ll win the series, but with Middleton in street clothes, there were suddenly a lot more questions about how things were going to play out. Not so much anymore as the Bucks entered the United Center and regained the Bulls’ home advantage with a dominant championship-level performance.

If you’re a Bucks fan, this was exactly the kind of display you were hoping to see. Not only did they win Game 3, they gave the Bulls their worst home playoff loss in franchise history.

4. A special message for Luca Vildoza

In a move that likely went unnoticed by anyone outside Milwaukee, the Bucks signed 26-year-old Argentine point guard Luca Vildoza just before the end of the regular season. On Friday night, with the game well controlled midway through the fourth quarter, he was finally able to make his NBA debut.

He made the most of it, putting on a show on his way to three points, three assists and two steals in eight minutes of work. His NBA standout reel is off to a great start thanks to this acrobatic pass to Jordan Nwora.

And this dish behind the back to Thanasis Antetokounmpo for the slam poster.

Vildoza is unlikely to play significant minutes for the rest of the playoffs, but this was a nice turnout. He will be a player to keep an eye on next season.

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