The first 1:30 of the game was not friendly to the Bulls. The Bucks jumped out to an early 9-0 lead.
Milwaukee made its first four shots as the Bulls had zero answers. The Bucks continued to dominate and led 34-21 after the first quarter of play. The Bulls shot incredibly low from the field–relying on the defense to stay in the game. This was a common factor of the game. In the second quarter, the Bulls settled in and made a quiet comeback. With six minutes left in the second, the Bulls began a 7-0 rally that brought the deficit down to only five points.
At halftime, the Bulls trailed 51-43 after outscoring Milwaukee 22-17 in the second quarter.
Like the second quarter, the Bulls continued to lower the deficit, applying pressure and double teams on Giannis Antetokounmpo, forcing others to make shots.
In addition, the Bulls attacked Giannis at the rim, putting him in foul trouble. With just over three minutes to go, Nikola Vučević and Coby White made back-to-back threes, giving the Bulls their first lead of the game. White drove to the basket on the next possession, extending the lead to five points.
The Bucks made a quick comeback and led 74-71, heading into the final frame.
The defense was prominent in the fourth quarter; only 34 points were scored in the final frame.
The Bulls continued to attack Antetokounmpo, putting him in foul trouble in the fourth quarter. The Bucks kept him out of most of the fourth quarter, which allowed the Bulls to stay in the game. A very controversial play occurred late in the fourth. Giannis Antetokounmpo had committed five fouls, one away from fouling out of the game. Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer put him back in for the final four minutes. With less than two minutes to play and the Bulls trailing 87-84, Jrue Holiday missed a deep jump shot. Second-year forward big man Patrick Williams boxed out Giannis hard, which forced Giannis to jump over Williams’ back to secure the rebound.
Williams was called for a foul, resulting in another possession for the Bucks. If the foul had been called on Antetokounmpo, he would have been out for the rest of the game.
The Bulls trailed the rest of the way, and the game was over after Zach Lavine missed a deep three with less than a minute to go.
The Bulls’ offense struggled throughout the game, whereas the defense was exceptional.
Alex Caruso played well on defense, disrupting the Bucks offense numerous times, playing on-ball defense well, and limiting scoring from Holiday and Khris Middleton, who struggled offensively all night. The Bulls’ offense didn’t come to play in the most important game of the season. Vučević led all Bull scorers with 24, shooting an abysmal 9-27 from the field while adding 17 rebounds. All of the Bulls’ big three struggled. In his first career playoff game, Lavine scored 18 and shot 6-19 from the field. However, Lavine added 10 rebounds of his own. DeRozan had one of his worst shooting performances of the season, shooting 6-25 from the field and scoring 18 points. Lavine, Vučević, and DeRozan all committed three turnovers, too.
Zach Lavine explains how the Bulls faltered at the end. “They made a couple more winning plays than we did at the end.”
A positive of the game: the Bulls held the Bucks to 93 points, an impressive feat for the struggling defense. If the defense can perform similar to Sunday night and the offense does its part, the Bulls could do some damage in the first round.