How Nikola Vučević stamped stretch run of Bulls' Game 2 win vs. Bucks

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How Vučević stamped stretch run of Bulls' Game 2 win originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

MILWAUKEE — Of all the contributions Nikola Vučević made during the Chicago Bulls’ stirring Game 2 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, perhaps most impressive is this:

He played the final 5 minutes, 50 seconds with five fouls.

If Vučević fouls out, he’s not there to sink a massive 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left, one of his four triples on the night. If Vučević is on the bench, he’s not able to knock down a midrange jumper on the Bulls’ next possession to keep the lead at six.

And most importantly, if Vučević isn’t on the court, he doesn’t back tap an offensive rebound to DeMar DeRozan for DeRozan’s dagger driving layup over Giannis Antetokounmpo with 18.2 seconds left.

“I had a good run at the rim,” Vučević said.

In all, Vučević posted 24 points, 13 rebounds and two assists in the series-evening triumph. His 18 shots marked the second-most attempts behind DeRozan’s 31, more evidence of how his shooting and floor spacing are critical to the Bulls’ offensive game plan against the Bucks.

In Game 1, Vučević attempted a game-high 27 shots. He only made nine in a contest in which both teams struggled from the floor. In Game 2, Vucevic shot 10-for-18.

“I put a lot of work into my game every day,” Vučević said. “Obviously, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have a lot of confidence in myself. One game is not going to change that.”

On multiple possessions, the Bucks’ primary defender against Vučević — often, Brook Lopez — sagged so far off of him into the lane to try to wall off driving opportunities for DeRozan and Zach LaVine. Vučević knows he’s going to get plenty of shot opportunities throughout this series.

And in a consistent theme from the season, his teammates always are the ones supporting him, telling him to shoot no matter his percentage. They understand his importance.

“Vooch is huge for us,” DeRozan said.

The Bulls managed just one victory in 15 tries against Eastern Conference teams that posted winning percentages of .600 or better during the regular season. Suddenly, they’ve matched that win total after just two postseason tries against the Bucks, who finished with a .622 mark.

“I think our approach is very different going into the playoffs,” Vučević said. “We obviously understood we had a bad stretch to end the regular season, however long it was. But we came in after a day off and met the first day and talked about what we didn’t do well and what we need to do to have a chance going forward and we just bought into it.

"We had a good week of work, some practices where we competed and went at each other. I think we were able to put it behind us and come into this series and just play.”

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