Robin may have come out on top in the stat sheet battle, but Brook won the war as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Chicago Bulls 112-99. Milwaukee was able to stay undefeated in games after losses (14-0) and are 3-0 facing the Bulls this season. Chicago is one of five teams bidding for the first pick in the draft this summer so this was a game the Bucks needed to take advantage of to keep their 1 game lead in the Eastern Conference.
Giannis returned to the starting lineup for this one but you wouldn’t notice by Milwaukee’s first quarter offense. Their shooting woes from Saturday continued into Chicago to open the game. From deep, Milwaukee shot just 23% and 33% from the field. If it wasn’t for Ersan Ilyasova’s surprising start to the game the damage could have been much worse. He sunk both of his 3-point attempts and euro-step head-faked into a layup to lead the Bucks with 8 points and a 22-21 lead after the first.
Milwaukee’s offense finally picked up in the second quarter, but Chicago was able to keep pace. The Bucks built up a lead at some points of the quarter, as high as 6, but the second ended in a dead heat as Milwaukee held a 50-49 lead going into the locker room. Giannis was able to find his rhythm and hit his only 3-point attempt of the half to give him 14/11/4. Ersan finished the half with 12 points on 5-7 shooting as the only other Buck to get into double-digits. However, the defense couldn’t seem to find a way to slow down Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen who had 17 and 11, respectively.
The second half provided some excitement to the game. The third quarter included two huge blocks by Brook Lopez that made the Bulls fan gasp in awe. Milwaukee shot an efficient 10-17 from the floor but just 1-5 from three which was a major reason as to why they couldn’t hold any lead they were building. Khris Middleton returned to his usual form after a rough game on Saturday and hit a couple of self-produced step back shots. The lead got as big as 12 but four Bulls players entered into double-digit scoring and Milwaukee’s lead sat at an uncomfortable 79-71.
The final quarter showed why the Bucks have earned their spot atop the East. Despite the Bulls giving it their best shot with some big runs, Milwaukee was able to close out the game to win 112-99. Chicago had cut the lead to just 3 with less than 4 minutes to go but a combination of Giannis, Eric Bledsoe, and Khris Middleton sealed the deal with a 12-0 run of their own.
Giannis showed again why he deserves to be MVP by posting a stat line of 29/17/8 on just 13 shots. That’s efficiency at the highest caliber. He also went 2-3 from deep and is now shooting 46% from 3 in February. That’s scary for the rest of the NBA.
Eric Bledsoe had his second game in a row with 19 points to go along with 3 3s so it seems he is officially out of his slump. Khris Middleton added 16 of his own on 6-13 shooting and Malcolm Brogdon put up 17 on 5-9 from the field. It’s going to be tough for anyone to beat the Bucks when their starters are producing at this level.
In the battle of the Lopez brothers, Robin was able to outscore Brook 17-7 but Brook had arguably the more impactful game with his rim warfare. His stat line will say he had only 2 blocks but if you watched the game you know he did much more than that. He consistently altered shots at the rim and made it very difficult for Chicago to score in the paint in the second half and especially the 4th quarter.
Nikola Mirotic remained out with a calf strain and is listed as day-to-day. He will test out the calf before Wednesday’s game against the Pacers to see if he can make his Bucks debut before the All-Star break begins. Although with the All-Star break looming I wouldn’t expect the medical or coaching staff to want to risk any type of further injury. Milwaukee will travel to Indiana on Wednesday for their last game before Giannis, Khris, and the Bucks’ coaching staff participate in the events that only All-Stars are permitted to be a part of.