Bucks vs. Bulls Game 3 Preview: Can Chicago Contain Giannis Antetokounmpo?

The Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls meet in Game 3 without Khris Middleton. Action Network analyst Raheem Palmer breaks down the matchup, including his bet.

Bucks vs. Bulls Odds

Bucks Odds -3
Bulls Odds +3
Over/Under 222.5
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Milwaukee Bucks had defeated the Chicago Bulls in 17 of their previous 18 matchups and appeared well on their way to pulling off a sweep after mounting a comeback in Game 1.

The Bulls had other plans pulling off a 114-110 upset as 10-point underdogs, winning their first game against Antetokounmpo since December 2017.

Khris Middleton also suffered an MCL sprain, which will keep him out for the remainder of the series and the Bulls have gone from a team who could potentially be swept to a legitimate threat to the defending champions in Round 1.

Can the Bucks overcome the loss of Middleton as they look to make another title run or with the Bulls seize control of this series?

Let’s analyze both sides and find out!

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Middleton’s Injury Severely Limits Milwaukee’s Offense

This series has been anything but easy for the Bucks and things will get a lot harder with Middleton out for the remainder of the series after slipping on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

Middleton is a tremendous loss for a team lacking wing depth — he provided 20.1 points,  5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists as the team’s second-leading scorer — and the Bucks will have trouble replacing his production.

His scoring, 3-point shooting and playmaking are all something the Bucks will miss offensively, and outside of Jrue Holiday, they don’t have a ton of playmaking. The Bucks went 7-9 and had an Offensive Rating of 112.9 without Middleton this season, however this sample includes games where the Bucks chose to rest their starters.

His defensive impact is where his value is truly undervalued. At 6-foo-7, Middleton is essentially the only big wing on this roster and while Holiday typically handles opposing team’s toughest offensive player, the Bucks will be tasked with slowing down DeMar Derozan and Zach LaVine without Middleton’s services.

It remains to be seen what lineups Mike Budenholzer will play in the absence of Middleton, but Holiday, Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis will have to do more.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Bucks, who still have arguably the league’s most dominant force, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bulls still have no answer for him inside as he’s averaging 30 points on 53.8% shooting along with 17 rebounds and six assists.

The biggest edge the Bucks have is that they take a higher volume of 3-point field goals than the Bulls, so they can create a matchup problem with the Bulls trading midrange 2s for 3s.

Have the Bulls Flipped the Switch on Both Ends?

The Bulls struggled to score in Game 1, putting 0.86 points per possession, but thing completely shifted in Game 2 where they scored on 1.13 points per possession.

For Derozan, who’s been a career 41.7% shooting in the postseason, struggling to maintain his regular season efficiency, his Game 1 performance seem less like an aberration and more of a continuation of past playoff performances.

After vowing not to shoot 6-of-25 again, Derozan responded in a big way, putting up 41 points on 16-of-31 shooting along with seven rebounds and four assists. LaVine (20 points) and Nikola Vucevic (24 points) also bounced back big in Game 2.

Still, the Bulls’ shot profile isn’t ideal. In Game 2 took just 17% of their attempts at the rim, 27% of their attempts from behind the arc and mostly lived in the mid-range. They made 48% of their attempts from behind the arc in Game 2 and they will likely get outscored from behind the arc in every game.

The Bulls came into the postseason struggling defensively, ranking 25th in Defensive Rating since the All-Star break, allowing 117.9 points per 100 possessions. However, they’ve been returned to their early season form where they were top 10 in Defensive Rating, forcing the Bucks into 21 turnovers in Game 1 and 15 turnovers in Game 2.

The Bulls are also holding the Bucks to a 101.5 Offensive Rating throughout this series, something most people didn’t expect based on their late season metrics and the absence of Lonzo Ball. Alex Caruso has continued to be a force on the defensive end and he made two game-saving rebounds to seal the game for the Bulls in Game 2.

While some of Chicago’s defensive performance could be tied to poor shooting variance from the Bucks, it’s clear the Bulls aren’t the team we saw towards the end of the season; if they can keep this up, they have a real shot at winning this series.

Bucks-Bulls Pick

This total is too high based on what we’ve seen from these two teams in this series thus far.

Neither team has been particularly efficient with both teams scoring about one point per possession with the Bucks having an Offensive Rating 101.5 and the Bulls having an Offensive Rating of 100. Even with DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic shooting lights out in Game 2, the final score was just 224.

Without Middleton, the Bucks are missing one of their key scorers and playmakers, and while that may hurt them on the defensive end, I think it hurts their offense even more.

This should be a hard fought battle that comes down to which side is hitting its shots, but I’m not expecting a shootout. I’ll take the under 222.5.

Pick: Under 222.5