The Chicago Bulls face the Milwaukee Bucks on the road in Game 3 on Thursday night looking to take a commanding 3-0 series lead over their rivals.
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee.
When: Friday April 24, 01:00 (UK time)
The Bulls found a way to overcome the Bucks on both occasions in the opening two games despite being pushed by Jason Kidd’s young guns.
While Derrick Rose opened the post-season with 23 points in Game 1 to effectively make the difference, it was Jimmy Butler who stepped up last time out with a playoff career-high of 31 points in Game 2.
That star power and individual brilliance is splitting the teams at this stage, and with the Bulls barely making a trip for this road game, they will welcome the short travel required in this series which they will hope to wrap up sooner rather than later.
Nikola Mirotic will be a huge loss for Thursday’s game as he suffered a strained quad and bruised knee with things getting a little heated between the two teams in the last clash, and his scoring off the bench will be something that the visitors will need to make do without.
Nevertheless, with Rose and Butler building a strong chemistry in the back-court and Joakim Noah finding his rhythm and best form at just the right time, the Bulls will want to see more from Pau Gasol who has struggled slightly so far while Mike Dunleavy has started to hit some crucial shots from beyond the arc.
On the other side of the court, Khris Middleton was impressive in Game 2 and will continue to be a real scoring threat for the Bucks, but they will need more consistency across the rest of the roster and a bigger impact from their bench to cope with the depth that Chicago boasts.
Michael Carter-Williams and Giannis Antetokounmpo will hope to produce more on home court as they look to shake off any lingering playoff nerves, while John Henson will be mindful of avoiding any more confrontations which seemingly fired the Bulls up last time round.
Chicago will expect significant support in Milwaukee and so this could end up lacking the type of road atmosphere they will experience later in the post-season.
Such is the short distance between the two teams and the strong Bulls following in Milwaukee, it threatens to be more like a home game for the visitors who will undoubtedly feed off that energy and use it in their play.
As a result, there is only one real winner in this game and even without Mirotic making the difference off the bench and leading the second unit alongside Aaron Brooks, Rose and Butler between them have what it takes to see off Milwaukee and push them to the brink of elimination.
Prediction: Bulls to win.