DeMar DeRozan’s 41 points powered the Chicago Bulls past the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2, but there are bigger issues for the defending champs.
After shooting six of 25 in Chicago’s Game 1 loss to Milwaukee, DeMar DeRozan told reporters quote: “No way in Hell I shoot 6-25 again.” And you know what: He was right.
DeRozan came back in Game 2 and was spectacular. The 6-foot-6 wing from Compton dropped 41 points on 16-31 shooting from the field, including a perfect 9-9 from the foul line and scored the game clinching drive and finish over Giannis Antetokounmpo.
His 41 points marks a new playoff career high. He now joins Michael Jordan, Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, and Flynn Robinson as the only players in Bulls franchise history to score 40 or more in a playoff game.
DeRozan wasn’t the only one cooking in Milwaukee Wednesday night.
Nikola Vucevic finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds on 10-18 from the field, including four big three’s. Zach LaVine dropped 20 points on 7-13 shooting including 3-4 from downtown. Alex Caruso only scored nine points but dished out 10 assists, blocked two shots, stole two balls, finished with a plus-minus of +16 and took the game-ending charge on Giannis.
What was most impressive from Chicago in their 114-110 Game 2 victory over Milwaukee was their defense. Anchored by Alex Caruso, the Bulls are recaptured their unpredictable, havoc-wreaking defensive style that defined their early season success. As a team, Chicago managed to force 15 Milwaukee turnovers including seven steals.
During the post-game presser, Caruso was asked if he can tell the Bulls have unlocked a higher level of defensive engagement since the end of the regular season.
"A smile unfolded and he responded: “Can you tell?” Cocking his head to the side. “Yeah. We can tell. I think everybody can tell.”"
On the other side of the series, Milwaukee is in some trouble.
Bucks forward Khris Middleton sprained his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee during the fourth quarter, coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game.
According to ESPN, Middleton is set to undergo an MRI today, which will determine the severity of the injury and give the team more information about a timeline for his return.
"“You expect him to get up and walk it off and get back to the game, but you see that he was limping and limping and limping and you’re thinking like, ‘Oh, I hope it’s not bad, I hope it’s not bad,'” Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said after the game. “We need this guy. When he asks for a sub, you know that it’s bothering him because he doesn’t leave the game.”"
Giannis noted after the game just how big of a loss Middleton would be for the Bucks.
Losing Middleton would be a tremendous loss indeed, especially considering Milwaukee had already lost a key member of their rotation in Bobby Portis earlier in Game 2.
Portis exited the game in the second quarter after getting hit in the face by an elbow from Tristan Thompson while the two went after a rebound.
To make matters even worse for Milwaukee, Budenholzer told reporters before Game 2 that veteran guard George Hill isn’t expected to return anytime soon from the abdominal strain that has kept him from playing in this series.
With the Bucks dealing with some key injuries and the Bulls giving the defending champs all that they can handle through the first two games, including a big road win, a series many thought would go quickly with how Chicago was playing at the end of the regular season is looking more like a long, grueling series which could very well end Milwaukee’s season earlier than expected.