giannis-antetokounmpo-usatsi-nba.jpg
Getty Images

It took until the final day to determine the standings and first-round matchups in the Eastern Conference, and when all the dust settled the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks were in third place, setting up a matchup with their Central Division rival, the sixth-place Chicago Bulls. 

After a grueling title run and a condensed offseason, this season was always going to be a grind for the Bucks, and they struggled with injuries and inconsistent play at various times. Still, they have arguably the best player in the world in Giannis Antetokounmpo and remain one of the favorites to win it all. In this series, in particular, they are massive favorites.

That is in large part because the Bulls have fallen apart down the stretch. They revamped the roster last summer and it paid off early on. In fact, they were still atop the East standings as late as Feb. 26. But they, too, were decimated by injuries and were not able to sustain their hot start. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine will give them a chance, but they face an uphill battle. 

Here’s everything you need to know about this series:

(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (6) Chicago Bulls

  • When: Sunday, April 17 | 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Fiserv Forum — Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • TV: TNT | Live stream: FuboTV
  • Odds: MIL -550; CHI +400; O/U 229.5 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Featured Game | Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls

Storylines

Bucks: The Bucks begin their title defense on Sunday against the Bulls, a team they dominated in the regular season and essentially picked to play during the first round. Whether they made the right decision remains to be seen, but this is a good matchup for the Bucks and they are big favorites for a reason. It’s going to be difficult for the Bulls to slow down Giannis Antetokounmpo given their frontcourt.  

Bulls: This season started out exceptionally well for the Bulls, and they were still in first place in the East shortly after the All-Star break. However, they fell apart down the stretch as injuries took their toll. Now, they face an uphill battle against the Bucks in the first round, especially with Lonzo Ball out for the season. The Bulls were 0-4 against the Bucks this season, and the last two games weren’t particularly close.

Prediction

The Bucks are the better team, have the best player and were undefeated against the Bulls in the regular season. None of that will change on Sunday in Game 1. Pick: Bucks -10

By Zigong