MILWAUKEE: After the Bucks lost to their division rival Bulls at the Bradley Center less than two weeks ago, they looked for some revenge, but to no avail. The young Chicago Bulls, led by Kris Dunn and Niko Mirotić, came in and beat the Bucks, 115-106.
The Bulls, with their fast-paced offense and tough, often overly-aggressive defense, have now won 8 of 10 games since Mirotić returned, while the high-powered Bucks have lost 5 of 7, including two to Chicago in the last eleven days.
Milwaukee got off to a fast start, led by a beautiful alley-oop pass from John Henson to Eric Bledsoe for the finish. Another early game highlight came from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had a huge dunk on a fastbreak, which seems to happen every night at this point. Bulls’ second-year man Denzel Valentine helped get Chicago going, but the biggest play of the first quarter came from veteran Justin Holiday, who dunked on Giannis and followed that up with a stare down.
Chicago’s defense struggled early, and Milwaukee led 31-22 after one, led by Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe and some tough shots from Khris Middleton.
The second quarter was the turning point of the game, with Dunn and Mirotić leading the Bulls’ offense, and Bledsoe and Antetokounmpo getting into some foul trouble. Chicago outscored Milwaukee 34-22 throughout those 12 minutes, and led 56-53 at the break, with the Greek Freak having already scored 18 points, but the steady play of Mirotić and Bobby Portis off the bench getting the Bulls back on track.
The third quarter was exactly what NBA fans look for in a December regular season game, as the Bucks and Bulls went back and forth almost to a T. Bledsoe’s playmaking ability and Giannis’ pure speed and strength paced Milwaukee, while Kris Dunn really got going for Chicago, in one of his more impressive showings of the season. Headed to the final quarter, the division rivals were all tied up, 83-83.
If the fans weren’t into the game in the early going, they certainly were in the final 12, as the Bradley Center was electric, especially for a Tuesday night game.
The first three minutes of the final quarter were pretty close, but then, surprisingly, the Bulls started to take over. Dunn played with the confidence of a superstar, Mirotić didn’t seem to miss a three-pointer, and and Chicago bench players with the likes of David Nwaba and Bobby Portis dominated on the glass, specifically on the offensive end, leading to 11 offensive rebounds in the second half.
This has been a real problem for Milwaukee, and Coach Kidd was asked about it after the game. “That’s just who we are. We can’t rebound the ball. We just hope and pray that someone gets the ball. When that happens, we’re going to get killed.”
A clearly frustrated Kidd ended his answer about offensive rebounds with, “Until then (solving the problem), we’ll still get out-rebounded and we’ll still get our ass kicked.”
In addition to rebounding, another glaring issue for the Bucks was the turnover differential. The Bulls, amazingly, only had seven team turnovers and four after the first quarter, while the Bucks had 20 turnovers, which led to 24 points for Chicago.
Even more impressively, the Bulls’ bench accounted for 54 of the team’s 115 points, and did not record a single turnover in over 100 combined minutes, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, and certainly not in Milwaukee against a long, athletic defense.
Dunn was asked about the lack of turnovers, and how he was able to lead the team in being so efficient with the ball. “I think it’s credit to the coaching staff. They emphasize that each and every day to us, and for the team, I think we’re doing a good job getting more possessions for ourselves.”
“Teams feed off turnovers,” Dunn continued, “especially the Bucks. They get turnovers, get in transition, and are unstoppable in transition, just like the Cavs.”
After the tough home loss, Milwaukee (17-15) looks to get back on track Thursday night at the Bradley Center as the Bucks host the Timberwolves.