For those who prefer hot sauce, NBC Sports Chicago has a hot option for Bulls fans – Twin Cities

The first-round series between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks has only just begun, but it already looks like a must-win scenario for DeMar DeRozan and company Wednesday night at the Fiserv Forum.

If the cops can squeak out a win in Game 2, they will return to Chicago with the breakup they sought at the United Center two games ago. If not, they’re 2-0 down and face the titanic task of winning four out of five games against the holders, who have beaten them five times in a row this season.

After some practice at the Advocate Center and two nights in their own beds, the Bulls should head into Game 2 refreshed and confident.

“We let them know we were here,” Zach LaVine said after the Bulls’ comeback bid fell short in Game 1.

But the near-miss could also serve as a wake-up call for the Bucks, who played poorly on Sunday but were OK with what coach Mike Budenholzer called an “ugly win.”

Whatever your perspective on the opener, the importance of Game 2 cannot be underestimated, and Bulls fans will no doubt be prepared to stay up late until the 8:30 p.m. start. The game will serve as the second half of a TNT doubleheader following Game 2 of the Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics series.

TNT does a great job with its NBA programming, and Charles Barkley is the most entertaining studio analyst of his generation. But if you want some hot sauce at your Bulls-Bucks match, remember that NBC Sports Chicago will also be televising the game, with announcers Adam Amin and Stacey King.

The local affiliate broadcast Game 1 and will broadcast Friday’s Game 3 at the United Center, the Bulls’ first home playoff game in five years. ABC will have the exclusivity for Game 4 on Sunday noon.

Marc Brady, the veteran producer of Bulls games, said the league is allowing local partners to broadcast select first-round games before giving national rightsholders — TNT, ESPN and ABC — the rest of the playoffs exclusively.

In some cities, it can mean that hometown announcers have a one-sided view of what’s happening. But Chicago isn’t just another sports city, and Brady said Bulls fans don’t expect their announcers to serve as cheerleaders.

“It’s a party,” Brady said of the TV shows. “But if you watch it, it’s not Homer (TV show). It’s a very fine line between being informative and critical and still being entertaining. You’d think Adam and Stacey had worked together forever.”

There’s no question that Amin, who grew up in Addison as a Bulls fan, and King, a former Bulls player, want their team to win. Just listen to King’s reaction to a LaVine driving dunk or Amin’s calls to DeRozan’s buzzer beater against the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards. They are an exciting duo to say the least.

But they also don’t hesitate to point out when the Bulls’ offense stagnates or when players rush shots or don’t get back on defense.

“It’s not a lazy criticism,” Brady said. “It’s a measured criticism. But this is an exciting time for Bulls fans. No one expected them to get this far this year, so there was some disappointment (over the dip in the second half of the season). But let’s remember, it’s been tough for the last four years.”

The Bulls are co-owners of NBC Sports Chicago, so Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf deserves credit for allowing the network to hire broadcasters and analysts who don’t always paint a rosy picture.

Reinsdorf grew up in Brooklyn listening to Red Barber and Mel Allen, who were known for being objective but still wanted their team to win. Reinsdorf always said it did not like “homerism in the cabin”. but allowed former White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson to do his thing because “the market wanted it that way.”

There was no glossing over the many problems the Bulls had during the rebuild. If you’ve seen them through thick and thin since their final 2016-17 playoff season, congratulations on your perseverance. I’ll admit to switching channels when they’ve fallen hopelessly behind and former coach Jim Boylen has called a meaningless time-out for a “teaching moment”. It was hard to take.

But the Bulls changed everything with their hot start to November and made them enjoyable to watch again. Produced by Brady and his crew, the pre-tipoff opening highlights package got the party started on the right foot. When the Bulls played well and Amin and King cooked, it was a delicious meal.

Of course, not all fans are thrilled with the local shows that come with the territory. To each his own. After all, not everyone likes hot sauce.

But if you like a bit of spice and informed analysis from two local broadcasters who have been there from the start, it’s reassuring to know that Amin and King are at the key games of the season.

Of course, with success comes higher expectations, and that’s where NBC Sports Chicago showed us how it’s done this season. Some teams treat their pre and post game shows as an extension of the marketing department. But the Bulls’ shows, hosted by Jason Goff and analysts Will Perdue and Kendall Gill, were anything but infomercials.

Perdue and Gill never held back as they broke down what went wrong in some of the Bulls’ on-track performances. NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider KC Johnson, an old friend and former Tribune colleague, provided tidbits and timely in-game analysis from the press while writing on time.

Johnson also transitioned as a play-by-play man during a New Year’s Eve game in Indianapolis when Amin had to take a COVID-19 test to prove he really is a Renaissance man.

All in all it was quite a run. The Bulls have stepped up their game this season, as has the channel that broadcast their games.

() For those who prefer hot sauce, NBC Sports Chicago has a hot option for Bulls fans – Twin Cities

Jessica MacLeish

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