Brook Lopez could be the Milwaukee Bucks’ difference maker in round one

Apr 5, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

There is no controversy at all in saying that Brook Lopez was a key piece for the Milwaukee Bucks during their title run last year. Though he did not score 50 points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals like Giannis Antetokounmpo or hit a surplus of late-game shots like Khris Middleton, Lopez’s two-way play is among the handful of reasons why the Bucks are the current defending NBA champions.

As the Bucks begin their title defense this coming weekend, it is not far-fetched to say that Lopez will play a vital role for the champs once again. In fact, Lopez could possibly be a difference-maker in Milwaukees’ upcoming first round matchup against the Chicago Bulls, given how well he played against the Bucks’ Central Division rival during the regular season.

Breaking down Brook Lopez’s strong play against the Chicago Bulls during the regular season for the Milwaukee Bucks

Given that he was sidelined for a significant portion of the 2021-22 season due to back surgery, Lopez only appeared in two of Milwaukee’s four contests versus Chicago. In his two outings, the big man was outstanding as he dominated on both sides of the basketball.

Offensively, Lopez played phenomenally as he averaged 19 points on 56.5 percent shooting while also knocking down 37.5 percent of his 3-pointers. Whether he was attacking the hoop down low or letting it fly confidentially from 3-point land, Lopez had his way in both regular season victories for the Bucks. In fact, Lopez had his best scoring game of the season in a 127-106 victory over the Bulls earlier this month as he tallied 28 points on 64.3 percent field goal shooting.

In addition to his offense, Lopez made a significant impact on the defensive end as he racked up five blocked shots and two steals in those two games. Looking closer at his defensive numbers, Bulls players shot just 15-of-39 (38.5 percent) when they were defended by Lopez, according to A large portion of this occurred while Lopez was matched up with Nikola Vucevic, who scored just 16 points on 7-of-22 shooting (31.8 percent) over these two games while being defended by Milwaukee’s man in the middle.

Brook Lopez’s strong play against the Chicago Bulls highlights his importance in the Milwaukee Bucks’ first round series

Though the Bucks will not expect Lopez to score 28 points and play near-perfect defense in every game during this upcoming series, his contributions could be a difference-maker.

Lopez thrived on the offensive end during these previous two largely because of his scoring inside, as he averaged the second-most points in the paint on the team with 10 per contest. Lopez must look to attack the rim as the Bulls allow 49.6 paint points per game, which ranks 22nd in the NBA. If the big man can assert himself offensively in the post and exploit this weakness, it would boost Milwaukee’s chances.

While he should emphasize attacking inside, Lopez will also get his share of looks from long range. It comes via a small sample size of eight attempts, but Lopez shot it well enough from distance to keep Chicago’s defense honest. If he can attack down low while also hitting this outside shot with some regularity, it would make Lopez an incredibly tough cover for Chicago’s defense.

Lopez’s contributions on the defensive end will also be fascinating, given how well he matched up against Vucevic in the regular season. If the big man can replicate that success and keep Vucevic in check throughout the series with his robust defense, that would unquestionably help the Bucks as they look to take down the Bulls. Lopez limited the offensive contributions from Chicago’s All-Star center and third-leading scorer when they met previously this year, and he must do it again.

Given what he provides on both sides of the basketball, Lopez could be a difference maker for the Milwaukee Bucks in their upcoming first round playoff matchup.

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Be sure to catch Game 1 this Sunday.