Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls (-7.5, 187.5 o/u)
For all intents and purposes, it was the Derrick Rose show Saturday when the Chicago Bulls (51-32, 28-14 home) beat the Milwaukee Bucks (41-42, 18-24 away) Saturday in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.
The 2011 MVP scored 23 points and added seven assists in his first playoff game in three years.
The import of Rose’s performance was not lost on his teammates.
“I think we have a great opportunity,” Bulls forward Joakim Noah said. “We just have to stay humble and hungry. Derrick played really well. It was so good to see him competing the way he competed.”
Rose didn’t do it all himself, though. Jimmy Butler led Chicago in scoring with 25 points while Pau Gasol had ten points and 13 rebounds.
Arguably, the various injuries to Rose have helped the Bulls become a better all-around team, as others have had to step up in his absence and the team has had to find different ways to win. Butler emphasized the multifaceted nature of his squad after the win.
“As long as we stay healthy and everyone keeps his confidence high I think it’s going to be tough for teams to key in on any one guy because we have so many guys who do so many things well,” said Butler. “So if we just keep playing team basketball and give our all for the team, we will continue to win.”
There’s no doubt the Bulls are playing a high level. Over its last five games dating back to the regular season, Chicago is holding teams to 89.4 PPG and 39.1-percent shooting.
As for the Bucks, the playoffs are a learning experience for a squad that barely made it into post-season play. Saturday’s game was the first taste of playoff basketball for Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton ,and Giannis Antetokounmpo (who, combined, only shot 34.9-percent from the floor).
“It’s the first playoff game for a lot of people on this team,” said guard Jerryd Bayless. “There were a lot of nerves and whatnot, but we got rid of it today and have a great opportunity on Monday.”
Considering their first-game jitters are now out of the way, look for the Bucks to provide a better effort against the Bulls in Game 2. Given that Milwaukee is one of the best ATS teams in the league (46-36-1) and Chicago is in the bottom half (40-43-0), Milwaukee and the points (+7.5) looks like the better play.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Joakim Noah) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)