Bucks look to dispatch Bulls, advance to second round

The Milwaukee Bucks look to punch their ticket to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Thursday when they host the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of their series.

After dropping Game 2 of their first-round set, the Bucks bounced back with a vengeance by winning consecutive contests on the road to take a 3-1 series lead. The last two wins came in dominating fashion for Milwaukee, which recorded a 27-point average margin of victory.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks in their 119-95 win over Chicago in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon with 32 points and 17 rebounds. Reserve Grayson Allen erupted for 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting, and Jrue Holiday added 26.

With Khris Middleton sidelined due to a sprained MCL, Allen has stepped up over the last two games by averaging 24.5 points and 4.0 rebounds off the bench.

Allen has been particularly sharp from 3-point range, sinking 11 of his last 14 shots (78.6 percent).

“Obviously much needed. The time was right, and he’s been really good,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think he’s just embracing the moment, embracing the opportunity. I think the guys are doing a good job screening for him, things like that.”

While things have been clicking on the offensive end for the Bucks, their defense also has been stout. Milwaukee has held Chicago under 100 points in three of four games in the series.

In addition to Middleton, George Hill will miss Wednesday’s contest with an abdomen injury. Luca Vildoza also is listed as day-to-day.

Now facing elimination, the Bulls will be looking to force Game 6 following their lackluster shooting performance on Sunday.

Chicago shot just 38.9 percent from the field (35 of 90) and 25.0 percent from 3-point range (9 of 36). The Bulls have not been able to find their stroke from distance all series, as they have shot under 27 percent from deep in three of four games.

“You know they (the Bucks) shot the ball well. That was the difference in the game in my opinion,” Chicago coach Billy Donovan said. “If you look at their shooting from the 3-point line compared to ours, that was the difference.”

The Bulls’ challenge became even greater when All-Star Zach LaVine entered the NBA’s health and safety protocol on Tuesday.

LaVine led the Bulls in Sunday’s loss with 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting. He also had 13 assists and five rebounds.

DeMar DeRozan contributed 23 points and Patrick Williams added 20 to go along with 10 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic notched 11 points and 10 rebounds to record his third double-double of the series.

Lonzo Ball (knee) and Matt Thomas (leg) are still out, and the Bulls’ backcourt depth stretched even thinner with Alex Caruso now in the league’s concussion protocol.

“His availability for Game 5 is up in the air,” Donovan said of Caruso, who left Sunday’s game after getting hit in the face in the second quarter.

If LaVine and Caruso have to miss Game 5, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White likely will be directing the offense. White has averaged 6.3 points during the series, while Dosunmu has averaged just 3.0.

–Field Level Media

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