April 23, 2015 (Posted at 5:00 PM ET)
Take Chicago Bulls at -2.5 spread against Milwaukee Bucks risking 3% of the bankroll.
As we head into Game 3 of this series tonight, the venue shift has brought a much more reasonable price to back the Bulls. Currently down 0-2 in the series, the Bucks could use any type of advantage that they can get. While it's almost normal for a team down 0-2 in a series to claw their way back in with 2 games on their home floor, but because of the close proximity between the two cities and the incredibly popularity of the Bulls, the question has to be asked, how much of their home court will actually be theirs? Bulls fans have a long history of making the much cheaper trip up to Milwaukee to watch their team and are known for creating "United Center North", a virtual home court advantage for the road team. In the last regular season home game, a "Let's go Bulls!" chant erupted throughout the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bulls will have their fair share of fans and support in the crowd tonight and that could prove frustrating for the young Bucks.
Typically Game 1 of a series sets the tone and Game 2 is where teams make necessary adjustments in order fill any holes or correct schemes that did not work in the first game. For the Bucks however, a few trends carried over from Game 1 into Game 2 that have yet to be corrected, most notably the Bucks inability to make shots and the dominance of both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Milwaukee shot under 40 percent in Game 2 and while the Bulls also shot under 40 percent, Butler and Rose combined for 46 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists to give Chicago enough fuel to keep Milwaukee at bay. The Bucks defense has improved in this series; however they still have shown that they cannot contain the Bulls offense for the full 4 quarters. In each game they had fizzled down the stretch and allowed Chicago to go on a late run. Their inability to play the full 48 minutes is something that is not easily corrected, especially when going up against a team with as many offensive threats as the Bulls.
The Bucks' inconsistent offense has hurt them and that will likely continue. They are only getting enough scoring out of the SG position with Middleton and Mayo both playing well. Giannis has looked reserved and anxious so far and things won't necessarily get easier for him in what is his first ever post-season game at home. They've made the adjustment to increase their touches in the paint; however their inability to put the ball in the rim is troublesome. Despite getting the ball inside, they went just a dismal 11-33 at the rim, with both Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo combining to go 1 for 12 in the paint. If these shots aren't falling, then that means the Bucks will have to rely on their mid-range jump shots, which haven't worked for them at all this series. While this can certainly be blamed on the lack of offensive punch that Milwaukee brings to the game, it'd be foolish not to also give credit to the Bulls defense as well.
Tom Thibodeau has always preached the importance of defense. Solid fundamental work has been the backbone of this organization. Guys like Gasol, Noah and Gibson are big and tough with their ability to rebound the basketball being the glaring difference in this series. In Game 2, the Bulls owned a +16 rebounding edge while enjoying a +11 margin in the opener. Rebounding is not something that can be fixed by a simple change of venue. While playing on their home court may give the Bucks a few added rebounds, in the overall makeup of these teams, the Bulls are simply built as the overall better rebounding team. They have the height and the players down low who go up and get the basketball. Height and a big body is not something that can be taught or that changes with a change of venue. The Bucks are at a serious disadvantage in the rebounding department and that is not something we expect to change.
There is no question that Jason Kidd is on his way to being a great coach. He has done an impressive job with this team this season, however after watching the first two games of the series it has to be mentioned that the Bucks have somewhat gotten away from what worked for them in the regular season. The Bucks have been going one-on-one more and have seen its assist percentage go down from 62.7 percent to 52.7. Milwaukee has done its best when they had gotten the entire team involved and not rely on a single person. The Bucks simply don't have the talented playmakers to turn this series into a game of one on one, they are simply too young and inexperienced.
The Bulls have a chance to not only take a commanding lead in the series but also get revenge for the recent loss that they experienced here near the end of the regular season on April 1st. That recent defeat means they won't be taking this squad lightly knowing they lost their last visit here. There is no doubt that Chicago would like nothing more than to get out of this series with the least amount of energy spent, ideally in the form of a sweep. Tensions have grown in this series, first with John Henson running into and then standing over Aaron Brooks in Game 1 and then again in Game 2 when Zaza Pachulia fell onto Nikola Mirotic who will miss this game. With things being so heated at the moment, we don't expect the Bulls to take things easy on the Bucks simply because they are now playing on the road. Milwaukee has lost eight straight postseason games dating back to 2010, covering the spread in just one of them, that was a 98-86 loss to the Miami Heat as 14-point road dogs! The Bulls have also won 8 of the last 9 meetings with the Bucks going an impressive 7-2 ATS. We feel that the Bucks will be outmatched in this contest especially on the boards and much like the first two games, they will not be able to contain the Bulls for the entire 48 minutes. Gasol and company should come away with the victory and the cover.
Other notable facts to consider:
- Bulls are 11-3 after two days of rest this season!
- Bulls have won 5 of their last 6 visits to Milwaukee.
- Milwaukee is just 4-15 against teams with winning records in the second half of the season!
- Milwaukee is only 5-13 ATS at home vs. good offensive teams (scoring 99+ points per game) this season.
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