Bulls Talk is expanding to include a segment that involves interviewing those close to other NBA teams that the Chicago Bulls either play regularly in their division or have a marquee rivalry with. Each installment is an interviewer with a fellow writer: this segment highlights the Bulls divisional foe the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Milwaukee Bucks no doubt see a lot of the Bulls being that they share the same division. But unlike the Bulls, Milwaukee can’t seem to get things going and missed the playoffs last year. However the Bucks are rising fast with talents like Brandon Jennings and rookie power forward Bismack Biyombo. I sat down with K.L. Chouinard, the editor of We’re Bucked a Milwaukee Bucks blog. If you haven’t yet, be sure to check them out to get the best info for scouting out the enemy.
PAE =Pippen Ain’t Easy
K.L. = Chouinard, Editor of We’re Bucked
PAE: Of all the teams in the Central last season, the Bucks actually kept Derrick Rose in check for the most part. He went 20-plus just twice on Milwaukee but the Bucks still managed to lose. So with Rose aside, why did they have such a tough time against the Bulls last season?
K.L: The Bucks defend well; in particular, Andrew Bogut ranks behind only Dwight Howard as an interior help defender.
Last season, Bogut did not miss any of the four games against the Bulls due to injuries and as a result, the Bucks kept Derrick Rose from scoring at the rim. By my count (using ESPN shot charts), Rose — who finished 4th among guards in baskets per game at the rim (3.8) — only made 10 of 25 attempts in the paint in the games against Milwaukee.
Despite slowing Rose, the Bucks lost because they just could not score. Of course, that problem was magnified against an elite defensive team like the Bulls. Milwaukee scored 77, 83, 75, and 87 points in the four games — which barely gets you a win over the Saints, let alone the Bulls.
PAE: Let’s talk about the Bucks and Bulls. Last season Chicago swept Milwaukee but who didn’t they sweep? Should they actually meet this year, how do you see them matching up? Will the Bucks steal one, earn one or are they still a year away from competing with Chicago?
K.L: The Bucks’ success hinges largely on what Brandon Jennings can do for them. In 2010-11, Milwaukee’s best chance of pulling out a a win over the Bulls came in the March matchup. Jennings played well through three quarters, and the Bucks led 74-69 heading into the final 12 minutes. But Skiles played Brandon for 46 out of the games’ 48 minutes, including the entire second half (on the second game of a back-to-back, no less)
What happened? Milwaukee resorted to jump shots in the fourth quarter — shots that fell flat under tired legs. While the Bucks scored 13 points for the whole period, Rose made 3-of-3 field goal attempts during a 12-0 Chicago run over the game’s final three minutes.
Last season, he seemed hesitant to put in Earl Boykins or Keyon Dooling in the game against C.J. Watson, and for good reason: Watson, along with OKC’s Eric Maynor, is one of the league’s premier point guards off the bench.
The Bucks acquired Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston in the off-season. With a bolstered backup backcourt, Scott Skiles can avoid disasters like this one.
PAE: Even though his career is young, a lot of people are high on Brandon Jennings. Even though he failed to make a scoring impact in his two games against the Bulls, how much of a difference maker is Jennings for the Bucks and can he be Milwaukee’s small scale version of Derrick Rose?
K.L: Jennings makes all the difference in the world for the Bucks. His shot-creating abilities are a unique skill on this team and the Bucks need him to turn “shot creating” into “shot-making”. They can’t afford another year where he shoots below 40% from the field. Specifically, they need him converting from close range. Jennings may be the worst finisher among point guards who “get to the rim” on a regular basis and really, he shouldn’t be. He gets good looks in the paint.
Once he starts making those shots, Brandon becomes the centerpiece around which the rest of the Bucks offense should fall into place.
PAE: Besides Derrick Rose, who on the Bulls makes you most nervous to go against and why?
K.L: Joakim Noah, because he brings to the Bulls what Bogut does for the Bucks: defense, smart weakside help, rebounding.
Other than Noah, it’s the Chicago fans that scare me. The Bulls bandwagon has grown to the point that that games in Milwaukee and Indianapolis are essentially hometown crowds. Check out this pic of the March game in Milwaukee. How much green do you see? How much red? The Bulls could end up with a Laker-like 45 “home” games. And that doesn’t include the playoffs. Sigh.
PAE: Staying on the Bucks now, they narrowly missed the playoffs last year getting edged by Indiana. Do the Bucks have a legitimate shot of getting the eighth seed this year and if so why?
K.L: It all depends on health. The Bucks will need a fully functioning Jennings and Bogut to be a productive offense in 2011-12. Last year, Jennings played with a nagging foot injury, while Bogut was hampered by elbow problems that stemmed from his catastrophic 2010 fall. If the twosome can stay on the court, expect the Bucks to resemble the team of their 2010 playoff run: a 6-seed that gave the Hawks a challenge in a first-round series.
Check out We’re Bucked for all the best Bucks news and check back all season (and off-season) long for more discussions with other members of the NBA community as the gauge how dangerous the Chicago Bulls are and will be in 2011.