The Milwaukee Bucks gutted out a narrow 93-86 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 to take the upper hand in this opening-round matchup. It might not have been a pretty win, but Mike Budenholzer and his men were able to do just enough to put themselves ahead in this series.
After losing the first game, the Bulls will surely come out with much-needed adjustments in order to have a better chance of bouncing back and winning Game 2. That will start with their stars simply hitting shots, as DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic combined to shoot 21-of-71 from the field.
The Bucks, on the other hand, are looking to sustain their momentum and continue to defend home court as they look to grab a 2-0 lead on Wednesday night. The defending champs know they can be better, especially on the offensive end, but they got some notable contributions to earn this win.
Let's take a look at three key reasons behind Milwaukee's hard-fought victory over Chicago in Game 1.
*Watch NBA games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
Why Bucks beat Bulls in Game 1
3. Points in the paint were a difference
In Game 1, the Bucks notched 42 points in the paint compared to the Bulls' 32. That may not be a huge disparity at first glance, but it surely made a difference in the end result, especially in a tightly contested game like this.
Milwaukee's points in the paint primarily came from the solid production of its two frontline members in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, who both starred in their Game 1 win. For Chicago, most of the inside points came from Nikola Vucevic, who led his team in scoring with 24 points.
Given their size disadvantage, the Bulls actually did a relatively good job of walling off the paint and forcing the Bucks to beat them from the outside. Chicago's bigger issue was scoring just 32 points in the paint. Milwaukee is terrific at protecting the paint, but the Bulls must do a better job of attacking the rim and finishing around the basket. They missed a bunch of bunnies, shooting 11-of-27 at the rim for the game. That came back to bite them.
2. Brook Lopez stepped up and made timely contributions
Back in December, Brook Lopez underwent back surgery and only rejoined the team in mid-March. In Game 1 against the Bulls, the Stanford product showed out and tallied one of his best individual performances since returning from injury.
He provided a lift to Giannis Antetokounmpo and served as the team's second-leading scorer with 18 points and five rebounds in 34 minutes. In a game where most players struggled, it was Lopez who provided stability for the Bucks whenever the Bulls were threatening to make a run and take away their lead during the contest. The big man scored seven crucial points down the stretch to help secure the win.
The veteran big man also made his presence felt on defense by coming out with two blocks in the game and providing excellent rim protection overall. Yes, the Bucks will need consistent performances from their main guys in Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday, but Lopez will be a key X-Factor for them on both ends.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo's efforts on both ends of the floor
One of the few legitimate bright spots on the team in their not-so-pretty Game 1 win was Giannis Antetokounmpo's performance. The Greek Freak had a game-high 27 points along with 16 rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes of action. With his constant drives to the basket, he was able to get good looks and finished off multiple ferocious dunks, which led him to shoot a respectable 52.6% from the field.
Like Lopez, Antetokounmpo also left an imprint on the defensive end by producing two blocks in Game 1. Everyone knows that the Bucks will go to their main man, especially in tightly contested playoff games like this. Notably, while this was a close game, Milwaukee outscored Chicago by 19 points in Giannis' 34 minutes of action. He was limited to just 34 minutes because of foul trouble, which hurt the Bucks given they were outscored by 12 with him on the bench, but he dominated for much of his time on the floor.
The Bucks will go as far as the two-time MVP will take them, and they will need him to play at his best in order for them to survive this first-round matchup against the division rival Bulls.