NBA Playoffs: Coby White proving critical to Bulls' chances vs. Bucks

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How White is proving critical to Bulls' chances vs. Bucks originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

With his rotational decisions, Billy Donovan is telling Coby White how important he is in the Chicago Bulls’ first-round playoff matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.

With his words, DeMar DeRozan is telling White the same, emphasizing that he’s fine with White taking advantage of any defensive overplays to become the primary offensive option.

And yet, offense isn’t where White’s focus is.

“I was really focused on the defensive end,” White said as the Bulls prepared to try to even the series with a victory in Wednesday’s Game 2 in Milwaukee. “I tried to bring energy and stick to the game plan, help my teammates any way I could.”

If you needed a snapshot of where the Bulls’ mindset is these days, White’s approach is as good a place as any to start. Though White’s 3-point shooting is critical for the Bulls to keep the bench scoring disparity from not becoming a series storyline, he and his teammates know that a similar defensive effort from Game 1 will be needed moving forward.

“I think the young guys, for some of them being their first playoff game seeing what the intensity and physicality is like, I thought they did a good job of holding up and matching that for the most part,” Alex Caruso said.

Added Donovan: “It’s a grind. It’s grueling. You’ve gotta be able to come right back again. These things that these young guys are going through is invaluable experience.”

And no young guy played more than White, whose 23 minutes tied the Bucks’ Bobby Portis for most among all reserves and dwarfed those of Ayo Dosunmu. The rookie logged just nine minutes.

“Ayo is going to get an opportunity at some time in this series. I know he’s going to be ready for it,” White said. “For us, we’re just staying locked in and trying to help the team in any way we can.”

White may or may not be right. It’s pretty clear that for this matchup, Donovan is going to lean on White more than Dosunmu.

In his first NBA playoff game, White produced 12 points and four rebounds on 50 percent shooting, knocking down 2-of-6 from 3-point range.

“I thought he really took the right shots,” Donovan said. “There was one I thought he could’ve shot-faked that I think Grayson Allen got a piece of. But I thought he had a good combination of getting downhill in transition. The shots that were there, he knocked down. He gave us a good boost in that third quarter.”

Indeed, White’s five points in 19 seconds featured a 3-pointer and layup off his own defensive rebound and push to cap a 13-0, third-quarter run. Nikola Vučević scored the first eight points.

And there may be potential for even more White 3-point looks in Game 2. The guard, who said he feels he “played solid,” noted that the Bucks didn’t help defensively as much as they usually do. White said DeRozan told him he's fine if White chooses to "slip screens," essentially not screening for DeRozan's defender if that defender is shading to help on DeRozan. Such an action would theoretically free White up for a shot.

The Bucks, who focus on shutting down the paint and using length at the rim, have allowed the most opponent 3-point attempts in three of the last four seasons. The Bulls attempted 37 3-pointers in Game 1, knocking down only seven for an unsightly 18.9 percentage. That number must improve in Game 2.

“It was just fun being out there in a playoff experience.  I was excited to be out there,” White said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere. The intensity is way higher. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

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