Friday, September 30, 2022

As the Milwaukee Bucks Dominate Demar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, the Chicago Bulls Are Not Getting Help From Their Bench

As the Milwaukee Bucks Dominate Demar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, the Chicago Bulls Are Not Getting Help From Their Bench

A pair of disappointing defeats at home showed the Chicago Bulls the limits of their star pairing: Demar DeRozan and Zach LaVine can do a lot, but they can’t do it all.

The Milwaukee Bucks defense dominated Derogen and LaVine in Games 3 and 4 of the first-round playoff series, giving them 26 and 47 combined points. This is a steep drop from their combined average of 52.3 points during the regular season.

The Bulls can’t beat the Bucks without the best performances from their stars. But DeRozan and LaVine are being held back even more by the lack of shooting from the Bulls supporting cast.

“One man is not going to defeat them,” Lavin said. “They were crowding in paint, and once I broke that first line of defense, they were sending people down the street and not letting me and DeMar try to kill them.”

DeRozan set a personal postseason record in Game 2, with 41 points in the Bulls’ only win of the series. After making his final basket with 18.2 seconds, DeRozan fell on the court, clearly spending an effort to produce 36% of the team’s offense.

But the Bucks didn’t give DeRozan a chance to repeat that feat in two games at United Center. He only scored 11 points in Game 3 as the Bucks pushed him away from his spot. The Bucks rarely use a net on DeRozan or LaVine, but the swiftness of their helping defense allowed them to keep DeRozan out of sync in both games.

DeRozan said he wasn’t angry about the lack of adjustment, but the pressure from the Bucks clearly upset him and the rest of the Bulls.

“I wasn’t disappointed at all,” DeRozan said after the Game 3 loss. “I knew they were going to make adjustments. What adjustments were going to be, I didn’t know in advance. By the time I realized it, they had rolled it out.”

When defense is key on a star like DeRozan, the bench and assists are key to maintaining offensive production. But secondary production for the Bulls in this series has been relatively non-existent — and for most of the regular season.

The Bulls bench finished last in the league in nearly every meaningful offensive category, including points per game, field-goal percentage, and 3-point percentage. The unit averaged 14.3 points in this series, despite significant waste time in Game 3 and the absence of an injury to Alex Caruso for the second half of Game 4.

Meanwhile, reserve guard Grayson Allen was the star for the Bucks in Games 3 and 4, shooting 11-for-14 from the back of the arch to score 49 points off the bench.

These shortcomings are exacerbated by the fact that the entire Bulls roster – starters included – is not shooting well.

Donovan noted that the Bulls made 19 chances for corner 3-pointers in Game 4—one of the highest-percentage shots—but made only five of them. The Bucks, in comparison, made four out of 3 of their five corners.

“You have to have some shots,” Donovan said. “I think our inability to make some jumps frustrates us. When they’re packing the paint, we have to forget it. We’ve got to take some shots of them.”

Bench depth was never a strong suit for this Bulls roster, and an injury to Lonzo Ball only deepened the disparity. Caruso’s possible absence in Game 5 will only make the problem worse.

This may not be an issue that the Bulls can fix without changing the roster, but the difference in bench units will decide this series. Whether it’s Kobi White heating up from 3-point range or Ayo Dosunmu surviving, the Bulls need a secondary spark. Without it, Bucks would be free to hang on to DeRozan and LaVine throughout.

DeRozan knows that his role is to lead on the court as well as him. Even after two setbacks, he said he is emphasizing the faith in his teammates as the Bulls head to Milwaukee for Game 5 on Wednesday.

“You can’t panic,” DeRozan said.

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Nation World News Desk
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