Gritty Game 1 win is a good early test for the Milwaukee Bucks

Apr 17, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

After all of the predictions and prognostications (including myself!) that the Milwaukee Bucks would roll the Chicago Bulls in four straight games (I said five), they won Game 1 in less than convincing fashion.

I’m very much a subscriber of the “they don’t ask how, only how many” motto but I’m also a believer in process over results. Yes, that’s contradictory, I’m a man of many layers. But while the Bucks will absolutely take an ugly Game 1 win, it also served as a good test going forward for the defending champs.

The Milwaukee Bucks should be encouraged by their ugly Game 1 victory

If you told me that the Bucks would get a combined 26 points on 10-of-29 shooting from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, I’d certainly raise an eyebrow and assume they lost considering how little they’ve gotten from their depth offensively this season, but hey, I would have assumed wrong!

It was a game that had me reminded me of a couple of things.

The first was that it was a lot like the first game between these teams back in late January. Milwaukee won 94-90, shot under 20 percent from 3 on 31 attempts, Middleton and Holiday shot a combined 11-of-27 for 29 points, and it was just an overall ugly game.

The biggest difference was that DeMar DeRozan got loose for 35 points on 67.5 percent true shooting and the leading scorer for the Bulls tonight was Nikola Vucevic with 24 points on 41 percent true shooting.

They went on to win the next three games by a combined 55 points, so they got more comfortable with the Bulls as they played them more.

That is also what this first game reminded me of: every Game 1 from last year’s championship run.

Milwaukee went 1-3 in the opening game of each series last year, with the only win coming in the first round against the Miami Heat.

One of the most impressive things about the Bucks’ championship run was how they were able to adapt and take advantage of their opponent’s weaknesses as each series went on.

They figured out the Heat pretty quickly and likely will with the Bulls as well.

Sure, they had a night to forget at the offensive end but they held the Bulls to 19 free throw attempts and DeRozan only got to the line six times, as was expected given how they played him after his 18 free throw game in their first meeting this season.

This was also the type of game that Bucks teams under Budenholzer before the championship would have likely lost. The Bulls made a strong push, punched the Bucks in the mouth, and they didn’t help themselves with sloppy turnovers.

Instead, we saw the resolve that we’ve seen all season when it’s closing time, they lock in and finish the game off.

Middleton struggled more than I expected considering the guys who were tasked with guarding him and how they tend to be guys that he can shoot over, but that’s likely something that will change as the series goes on.

Holiday finished the game strong with nine of their 19 fourth-quarter points and him staying aggressive is the most important thing with him on offense.

I’m not much of a betting man, but if I were, I’d be a lot on Game 2 not being nearly as close as Game 1 ended up. The Bulls’ best players may shoot better in that game, but so will the Bucks’ and as they continue to adapt to what the Bulls want to do, they’ll make quick work of their division rival.

Next. 3 keys to the Milwaukee Bucks defeating the Chicago Bulls in Round 1. dark

The Milwaukee Bucks will look to build on this tough victory in Game 2 on Wednesday.