Bulls at Bucks

Derozan faces his MVP rival Antetokounmpo in Fridays nights stand out game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo takes his NBA Champions to the faltering Bulls.
Giannis Antetokounmpo takes his NBA Champions to the faltering Bulls.

The game of the night on Friday features the Chicago Bulls playing against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. This is a great game to kick off the weekend as the defending NBA-champion Bucks host the newly-contending Bulls in this Eastern conference matchup. The Bulls are currently first in the East while the Bucks have recently slid down to the fifth ranked team in the conference.

It is a close race at the top of the East; however, as the Bulls and the Bucks actually have the same number of wins. The Bucks have four more losses than the Bulls though, and they are separated by just two games. This is one of the closest the top five teams in a conference has ever been at this point in the season. At this time it seems that the determination of the top five seeds in the East will come down to the final couple of weeks of the regular season.

This is a big matchup for these teams as the Bucks can narrow the gap to the No. 1 seed to just one game, and the Bulls can further stretch out their lead to command the East with a win.This recent slide for the Bucks is a bit concerning, but they have not been at full strength either in January. During their last eight-game stretch the Bucks dropped six of those games and only came away with two victories. They were without Giannis Antetokounmpo for one of those games and were without Jrue Holiday for the last six games.

People also forget that their starting center, Brook Lopez, has only played one game this year, but he is expected back before the playoffs start. The Bucks are arguably right where they want to be, just two games back of first place in the East. Even if they get a lower seed in the playoffs they should be fine with it. Remember most of the finals teams that Lebron James was on were rarely a top seed. They were focused on preparing for the playoffs and not concerned with seeding. The Bulls are the new kid on the block in the East.

After making a big move last year to trade for Nikola Vucevic midseason, the Bulls still were unable to make the playoffs. This year, the Bulls added multiple great pieces to their team including Demar Derozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso. The team had instant chemistry and have been one of the best all-around teams in the NBA. They have great scoring in Derozan, Vucevic and Zach LaVine to go with solid offensive players who also are standout defenders in Ball and Caruso. This team has a good mix of veterans who want to win and young players who are equally as unselfish. The sky's the limit for this Bulls team, even in the first full year they have this roster together. Look for them to compete feverishly in the Eastern Conference Playoffs and to not be an easy playoff series for any team.Keys to this game for the Bulls will be to slow down Giannis as he will be the primary ball handler with Holiday out, and he will be their go-to scorer for this Bucks team.

Giannis is a tough matchup for any team, but the Bulls don't really have a player who would match up with him well on paper. A big, strong, and lengthy defender is the ideal fit to slow down Giannis. The Bulls will likely use Demar Derozan who is a solid defender, but he is not overwhelmingly big, strong, or lengthy. That will be a matchup to watch closely in this game. The Bulls are currently in the midst of their toughest stretch in terms of schedule, and they have lost their last four games as of Wednesday morning.

This game will be pivotal for them to get out of their slump and they are hoping to return Ball and LaVine to the lineup for it. Keys for the Bucks will be to get some production elsewhere on the roster besides Giannis. That will likely have to come from Khris Middleton, and when he scores at a high clip, the Bucks winning percentage greatly increases. Another key will come on the defensive side of the ball for the Bucks. During their recent losing streak, they have been missing a solid perimeter defender without Jrue Holiday.

They will need someone to step up to fill that role and likely to guard the Bulls' superstar shooting guard, Zach Lavine. Two of the best teams in the East are currently slumping, but these two teams will face each other in this matchup in hopes of digging themselves out of that slump. The Bulls should be back almost fully healthy and the Bucks still have two of their stars in the lineup for this one, which should make for an exciting Friday night contest.