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10 observations: Bulls fall to Bucks in preseason opener

Chicago Bulls v Milwaukee Bucks
Coby White gets start at point guard and plays well at both ends.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Bulls fell to the Milwaukee Bucks 105-102 at FiServ Forum on Sunday afternoon in both teams’ preseason opener.

Here are 10 observations from the defeat:

---The teams took different approaches to the matinee affair. In his NBA head coaching debut, former Bulls player and assistant coach Adrian Griffin sat Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton. Meanwhile, Bulls coach Billy Donovan followed a familiar script, playing veterans who don’t like taking games off and starting Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.

---As expected, Coby White and Patrick Williams joined the starting lineup. While Donovan told reporters in Milwaukee that no point guard has separated himself in the competition for the starting job between White, Jevon Carter and Ayo Dosunmu, it could be White’s job to lose. Keeping White and Williams paired makes sense after the chemistry they displayed last season after Williams moved to a reserve role. Plus, developing White and Williams is crucial for the future of the franchise.

---As Donovan hinted at on media day last week, he “staggered” Williams and brought Torrey Craig in as the first reserve at the 7 minute, 28 second mark of the first quarter. Williams then started the second quarter with the rest of the reserve unit---Dosunmu, Carter, Alex Caruso and Andre Drummond.

---Donovan has said multiple times that his rotation will be a work in progress throughout the preseason---and could feature tweaks during the regular season. But a second unit of Carter, Dosunmu, Caruso, Craig and Drummond has massive potential defensively and entered for the final 3:06 of the first. Caruso, who talked about the unit’s potential in this sitdown with NBC Sports Chicago, followed with a steal in the first minute together.

---The Bulls took 12 of their 35 3-pointers in the opening quarter. Several attempts came either in transition or off drive-and-kick after “paint attacks,” a major talking point and point of emphasis during training camp. It’s well documented that the Bulls were the only team in the NBA not to attempt at least 30 3-point attempts per game last season. Overall, the Bulls finished 13-for-35 from 3-point range.

---Carter, Drummond and Craig started the second half as LaVine (nine points, three assists), DeRozan (seven points, one block) and Vucevic (four points, four rebounds) only played the first half. Vucevic only took one 3-pointer among his three shots as the Bulls tried to utilize Vucevic more as an offensive hub and in the mid-post.

---The offense will be a work in progress, however. The starters returned for a second-quarter stretch in which stagnation prevailed for several possessions. Overall, though, it’s clear the Bulls are trying to play faster, both in transition and in the halfcourt with paint attacks and drive-and-kicks. The Bulls outscored the Bucks 25-17 in fast-break points.

---Williams logged 22 minutes and took two shots off sequences where he grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled upcourt and let it fly. Along with a dunk attempt in traffic, Williams played with notable aggressiveness. He finished with 13 points and two rebounds. Williams still needs to improve his rebounds; Donovan has talked about wanting to see him average more. But he did take a team-high six 3-pointers, making three.

---Craig has talked about adding a competitive edge and toughness to a team that he felt lacked a little in those departments when he played against the Bulls as an opponent. He made an immediate impact with his first-quarter minutes with the starters, playing with energy and force at both ends. Craig finished with seven points, four rebounds and two steals in 19 minutes.

---White logged a team-high 23 minutes and finished with 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals. He truly shined at both ends, particularly by consistently pushing pace and trying to attack the paint. White finished with two turnovers but displayed his poise with a jump pass in traffic to Williams for one hoop.

"I noticed this summer when I went out in June to see him. He physically looked different. The ball looked to be a little bit more on a string for him," Donovan told reporters in Milwaukee after the game. "I think his confidence with the ball has really grown."

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