NBA's version of selection Sunday ends with Bulls drawing Bucks
The final day of the NBA regular season played out like one of those dating shows.
While several teams had a chance to select their playoff partner, the Bulls received a heart-shaped block of cheese.
The Milwaukee Bucks had a choice to make Sunday, decided to sit their starters against Cleveland and were blown out. The Bucks basically chose playing the Bulls in the first round over having homecourt advantage in the second round.
Once Boston rolled past the Memphis subs, the matchups were set. The Bucks will face their I-94 rivals to the south, the Celtics will await the winner of the Cavs-Nets play-in game, while No. 4 Philadelphia will play Toronto.
"They're champions for a reason," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said of the Bucks. "They're battle-tested, they've been through this. The thing we have to do is handle the difficulties, challenges and the adversity that come with (playoff basketball) and we have to maintain a high level of competitive fight."
Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Bulls showed some life without the leading scorers. They built a 28-point lead, piled up 70 points in the first half and held on for a 124-120 victory to finish their season with a 46-36 record.
Patrick Williams scored a career-high 35 points, getting to the foul line 14 times and looking more like the player the Bulls hoped to get with the No. 4 overall draft pick. Ayo Dosunmu added a season-high 26 points, while Troy Brown Jr. contributed 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulls rested DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso. LaVine (knee) and Caruso (back) have been dealing with nagging injuries and need to be fresh for practice this week. Coby White missed the game with a left toe sprain.
The Bulls, who went 0-4 against the Bucks, would like to have their full lineup for the playoffs. But the injured Lonzo Ball didn't play in any of the games against Milwaukee and the first two were very competitive contests.
A few things stand out with this matchup against the Bucks: For one, they need Williams to show up. He's the only person on the roster who has the size and speed to keep up with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Not that Williams is going to stop him, or even slow him down much. But holding his own in that matchup and making things as difficult as possible for the two-time MVP is important. Javonte Green is a nice change-of-pace defender to provide a different look.
The Bulls have to match up better against Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton as well. Holiday defends DeRozan as well as anyone, while Middleton pushed past LaVine for a couple of key offensive rebounds sealed the Mar. 4 victory at the UC. DeRozan did average 31.3 points against Milwaukee, while shooting 47.4% from the field. LaVine played in two of the four meetings and averaged 25.5 points.
Antetokounmpo posted 26.8 points and 13.5 rebounds against the Bulls, while Holiday, Middleton and Brook Lopez all averaged around 19 points.
With Lopez back after a back injury, Milwaukee has plenty of size. So needless to say, the Bulls need Vucevic to play better than he did in the past week to stay competitive.
"I always think that teams like the Bucks that have won a world championship, it's not like you can take one thing away and be successful," Donovan said. "They do a lot of things exceptionally well. That's the detail I'm talking about.
"When it's not going well, we have got to be able to competitively fight and stay in it and move to the next play and be unified; there's got to be real good talk. When we're not making shots or it's not going our way, we've got to find a way to keep battling and fighting as hard as we can."