The Eastern Conference playoff race has never been so tight. Every game matters especially when contenders face each other. The Bulls are only one game away from the top of the conference but the defending champions are also going for the top seed.
The Chicago Bulls are one of the teams that made the biggest leaps this season. Not only that they will be back to the playoffs, but the Bulls are also going after the top seed that will guarantee them a home-court advantage.
DeMar DeRozan is playing the best season of his career as he is the fourth-leading scorer of the league and among the top 5 candidates in the MVP race. In February, DeRozan went on an eight-game run scoring at least 35 points on more than 50% shooting from the field. Only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain have had longest streaks than him.
Zach LaVine has had a back issue during the season but that didn’t hold him back from his second All-Star appearance. Center Nikola Vucevic is a regular double-double machine and one of the most versatile big men in the league. Point guard Lonzo Ball has been sidelined for more than a month due to an injury and is expected to be back on the court in the middle of March.
The Bulls are currently second in the Eastern Conference with a 39-22 record including 24-9 at home. They were on a five-game winning streak before losing 116-110 to the Memphis Grizzlies. DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points followed by Zach LaVine with 28 and Cobi White with 15.
The Bulls are the second-best shooting team in the league as they shoot 48.2% from the field, 37.6% from the three-point line and 81.5% from the free-throw line.
The defending champions Milwaukee Bucks are not on the same level as they were last season but they certainly have the power for another deep playoff run no matter their starting position.
The injuries of their backcourt duo Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton took its toll and the Bucks are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 36-25 record including 16-13 on the road. With Giannis Antetokounmpo healthy, the Bucks have no reason to worry as the Greek Freak is averaging 29.4 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6 assists per game. He is even better in the last 10 games with 32.6 points per game on almost 60% shooting from the field.
Kris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are on their recoigizable level averaging 19 and 18 points per game but the player who made a difference this season is Bobby Portis. The power forward used the absence of starting center Brook Lopez and is averaging 15.6 points and 9.2 rebounds. Milwaukee has lost 4 of the last 5 games losing to Brooklyn and Philadelphia in the last two games both by three points differential.
Bobby Portis scored a season-high 30 points against the Nets followed by Antetokounmpo with 29 and Middleton with 25. The Bucks are the second-best rebounding team in the league with 46.4 boards per game. They average 113.3 points per game which ranks them 5th in the league. They shoot 36.2% from the three-point line which is the sixth-best in the league.
Both teams are going to be contenders in the playoffs with the Bucks having a slight advantage given their previous experience and the fact that the team is longer together. Despite the fact that the Bucks are fifth in the East, they are only 4 games behind the leading Miami Heat and if they go on a winning streak, they might even get to the top. The Game against the Bulls might prove to be key in that attempt as the Bulls are three games ahead of the Bucks.
Milwaukee has won 9 of the last 10 games against Chicago including a 94-90 win earlier this season. The Bulls are a very good home team but the Bucks are the better overall team. A lot will depend on the performance of the top scorers on both sides but the Bucks have an advantage since Antetokounmpo is a much better defensive player than DeRozan.
This will definitely be a tight game with both teams going over 100 points and the Bucks winning at the end.
Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks to win