NBA Eastern Conference playoffs series preview: Milwaukee Bucks vs Chicago Bulls

Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) shoots over Chicago Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan (11) during the third quarter at Fiserv Forum.
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports -- just about any and all you can think of! -- and coaching tennis in Atlanta, GA. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me. For Ricky Dimon media enquiries, please email
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The NBA these days is similar to college basketball in that the regular season is a bit of a slog but then the playoffs produce an embarrassment of riches. Although the NBA’s postseason festivities may not capture the imagination of sports fans quite like March Madness because they are more of a marathon than a sprint, the months of April, May and even June on the professional hardwood are a ton of fun.

The 2021-22 postseason won’t waste any time jumping right into some competitive, high-stakes action. In both conferences there are several interesting first-round matchups. One such series pits the Milwaukee Bucks against the Chicago Bulls. Milwaukee is the defending NBA champion, while Chicago was one of the best teams in the East for the first couple of months this season.

Let’s break down the 2 teams and discuss our best bet for the series.

Breaking down the Milwaukee Bucks

What will the reigning champs do for an encore? I think it’s fair to say that anything less than another NBA title would be a disappointment. The Bucks coasted to a respectable 51-31 record and their No. 3 seed allows them to avoid the Nets in round 1 and face the Bulls instead (No. 2 seed Boston has to go up against Brooklyn). That isn’t an overly impressive record, but keep in mind that Giannis Antetokounmpo and company also meandered to the third seed in 2020-21 before turning on the jets in the postseason.

With 6 players scoring in double-figures (led by the Greek Freak with 29.9 ppg), Milwaukee tops the Eastern Conference at 115.5 ppg and it is third in the association in offensive efficiency. That does not bode well for Chicago, which is among the NBA’s worst teams in defensive efficiency. Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis should really have their way down low in this series. Kris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were awesome in the playoffs last year, too, so they should be in line for more success. The Bucks are also quite healthy at the moment, so all systems are go for them to run it back.

Breaking down the Chicago Bulls

The Bulls started the season 26-10, but their honeymoon certainly did not last forever. They went 20-26 the rest of the way, plagued by injuries that to some extent are still a problem. Dating back to February 26, Chicago is 7-14. Lonzo Ball, who does a little bit of everything for this team, has been ruled out for the entire playoffs. Alex Caruso should be able to go, but he is less than 100 percent because of a back issue.

When DeMar DeRozan (27.9 ppg) and Zach LaVine (24.4 ppg) are both clicking, the Bulls can be dangerous. DeRozan was absolutely unconscious prior to the all-star break, but momentum seemed to evaporate just a bit at that point. Similarly, LaVine has been solid but unspectacular of late. Both guys will have to be great in round 1, because this does not seem like a series that is cut out for center Nikola Vucevic since he has to go up against a Bucks front line that consists of Antetokounmpo, Lopez and Portis.

Also check out our Raptors vs 76ers series preview

Prediction: Bucks 4-0

I think this will be either 4-0 or 4-1 in Milwaukee’s favor and I would take either 1 of those 2 prices that are higher. A sweep offers a considerably more substantial payout (+255, whereas Bucks in 5 is +190), so that is the direction in which I will go. Bucks in 6 at +370 would not be the worst bet given the enticingly long odds, but I really don’t see the Bulls winning twice in this best-of-7 set.

This just isn’t a good matchup the Bulls and you can look no further than the regular season to find proof. Milwaukee swept the series 4-0, winning by single-digits the first 2 times before completely humiliating Chicago on March 22 (by 28 points) and again last Tuesday (by April 5). Count on that kind of dominance continuing.

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