CHICAGO -- The Milwaukee Bucks are now one win away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs after beating the Chicago Bulls 119-95 in blowout fashion in Sunday's Game 4. The win puts the Bucks up 3-1 in the series, with the opportunity to close things out on Wednesday at home.
The Bulls started off Game 4 stronger than the previous game, feeding off the energy from the fans inside an energized United Center. However, Milwaukee never surrendered the lead from start to finish, and managed to once again enter halftime with a double-digit lead. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 32 points in the win, while reserve guard Grayson Allen came up big off the bench for the second-straight game with 27 points.
On the other end of things, the Bulls got 24 points out of Zach LaVine, in addition to 23 points from DeMar DeRozan and another 20 points from Patrick Williams. But it wasn't nearly enough as the Bucks took care of business rather easily and cruised to another win.
Here's three takeaways from Game 4 between the Bucks and the Bulls.
1. Grayson Allen's encore
After dropping 22 points in Game 3, Allen once again torched the Bulls to the tune of a 27-point performance. Who could've predicted that after All-Star forward Khris Middleton went down in Game 2, that Allen would be the one to step up in his absence? The craziest thing about it is he's been doing all this damage off the bench for the Bucks.
Following the Game 3 win, Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer praised Allen's underrated skill of being able to, and while a bulk of Allen's buckets came from beyond the arc, he once again took advantage of the defensive pressure the Bulls were showing Giannis and got to the rim essentially whenever he wanted.
Aside from Allen's offense, his defense has also been a huge win for the Bucks. He had three steals in the first half, as he tried to be disruptive to Chicago's offense. He had a clean strip on Bulls guard Coby White in the first quarter, which led to an easy layup on the other end. Then in the second quarter, he provided great help defense on DeRozan and forced him to cough up the ball.
Allen, who has received a wealth of boos from Bulls fans every time he touches the ball stemming from a hard foul he laid on Chicago guard Alex Caruso early in the season, has thrived in the hostile environment that Chicago fans created in the past two games. As a player who is no stranger to being disliked by opposing fanbases dating back to his Duke days, it feels like Allen thrives off the animosity. Even his teammates have taken to playfully booing him whenever he does something good.
"They're hilarious, I didn't even tell them to do that, they just started doing it on their own," Allen said after Game 4. "Now it's just going to become a thing, I think they're gonna boo me probably for the rest of the postseason."
Bucks guard Jrue Holiday agreed with Allen's sentiment that the Bucks will continue to boo him going forward.
"It started off just the fans booing him, but he's hooping when [we're] booing him," Holiday said. "Maybe it means something to him, a form of support. We're still gonna be booing the hell out of him."
Though Allen's familiar with the boos raining down on him, it's not something he's fully gotten comfortable with during his playing career. Though he's started to embrace it with the Bucks this season.
"I would still say that it's not naturally comfortable for me, but I am to the point now where -- I mean anytime I go out and play basketball, I just remind myself to have fun with it," Allen said. "So I am having fun with it, I guess you could say because I'm playing basketball. That's what I love to do. The ultimate joy for me is out there just playing, have fun and play free.
"Still, though my personality is naturally uncomfortable with the attention, the booing, the heckling. So it's not something that I like feed off of, like I'm not going out searching for it like 'Oh I love this,' you know? I just go out and have fun."
Though Allen says he doesn't feed off the boos, it's been working for him and the Bucks, so Milwaukee might as well keep it up.
2. Bulls' regular-season trend rears its ugly head
Chicago finished Game 4 with its bench putting up just 17 points (not including garbage-time points). In Game 3, the second unit accounted for just 16 points. Compare that to the 35 points Milwaukee got from its bench in Sunday's win in addition to the 33 points from reserves in Game 3 and you can see the blatant disparity. But that's not entirely abnormal for the Bulls this season.
During the regular season, Chicago ranked 29th in the league in bench points per game (26.7), and that stat has only gotten worse, averaging just 16.8 points in four games, ranking last amongst teams in the playoffs. This has been a general storyline for the Bulls all season, relying heavily on DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic and living with the results. That worked in the regular season against subpar competition, but the Bulls went a combined 2-21 against the top eight teams in the league this season, showing that while they can get the easy wins, they haven't yet been able to compete with the NBA's elite. Even in Chicago's Game 2 win in Milwaukee, it took DeRozan going off for 41 points to carry the Bulls to a win.
But since that offensive explosion from DeRozan, Milwaukee has done a great job of containing both him and LaVine, forcing others to beat them. So far, no one on Chicago's team has been able to take advantage of wide open looks they're getting, as all the offensive workload has fallen on the shoulders of the Bulls' Big 3. Facing elimination on Wednesday, the Bulls will need to get more out of their role players if they want to stand a chance.
3. An MVP performance from Giannis
In Game 3, Giannis was able to put things in cruise control as the Bucks were getting great production from guys like Allen, Bobby Portis and Holiday. While Giannis looked like he was still operating at around 70 percent of his full capabilities, he showed why he's a two-time league MVP with a championship to his name.
The Bulls tried everything possible to slow down the Greek Freak, but no amount of defensive pressure could slow him down. He discarded defenders at will on his way to the rim, and flexed his strength with every tough finish.
Just look at how he overpowers Williams in the paint and contorts his body to still get the bucket:
Or this possession, where he gets the block on defense and goes coast to coast for the finish:
Oh, and we can't forget this transition bucket where he spins between two Bulls defenders to get to the rim with ease:
When he wasn't barreling his way to the basket, he was drawing two defenders inside the paint and showed off his passing skills with well-placed dimes all afternoon. Antetokounmpo finished the game with seven assists, as he excelled at reading the defense and finding the open guy on the perimeter for a good look.
"[When] they're open I gotta pass them the ball," Antetokounmpo said. "Sometimes I got three guys on me, sometimes I admit I might be a little bit stubborn and not pass the ball, but I love when everybody's getting involved, when everybody touches [the ball], when everybody shoots it."
Well Giannis' teammates were certainly feeling the benefits of his court vision all game long, and they delivered by knocking down the shots. With Middleton sidelined, the Bucks couldn't ask for two better performances from their team. With Antetokounmpo leading the way, and guys like Allen and Portis stepping up, Milwaukee has managed to completely dominate this series and have a chance to put the Bulls away at home on Wednesday.