The Giannis-less Bucks began a 5-game road stretch with a confidence-boosting win against a Chicago team that had beat the Boston Celtics just 2 days earlier, defeating the Bulls 117-106. This was a big game for Milwaukee’s bench unit as they had to carry a bigger load against a hot Chicago team on their first 3-game win streak of the season. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon led the league leading Bucks into the Windy City on Monday night.
It was a classic Bucks performance to begin a game. Zach Lavine hit two quick threes out of the gate and Chicago had a 10-2 lead less than 3 minutes into the game to force a timeout from Coach Bud. Without Giannis, this definitely wasn’t the way you want to start a game on the road no matter who the opponent is. After the timeout, Milwaukee found better looks inside and out. Regardless, nothing was falling as they were 0-6 from deep. This brought the call to the bench from Bud. Newly signed Buck Isaiah Canaan entered for Bledsoe to try and find a spark for the offense. He did exactly that as he sunk his first attempt from deep with 4 minutes left in the first quarter. While it was an exciting moment for him, it still left Milwaukee down 23-13.
On the other end Lauri Markkanen and Zach Lavine proved to be too quick for Bledsoe and Mirotic. If they weren’t picking and popping for a wide open three, they were driving and finishing nearly every possession. This, combined with Milwaukee’s poor shooting made it a forgettable quarter. The Bulls, led by Markkanen with 14 points, held a 38-25 lead after the first. Canaan led Milwaukee with 6 points on a couple of threes and was the only reason the Bucks’ 3-points percentage was respectable.
D.J. Wilson made his presence felt in the second quarter with incredible hustle on the offensive glass and a couple shots to help bring the Bucks back to within 1 in just 4 minutes of play. Malcolm Brogdon took over the offensive while was Bledsoe on the bench and had a quick 8 points to force a timeout from Chicago. A more rounded effort from the Bucks followed as they got contributions from Pat Connaughton, Brook Lopez, and Nikola Mirotic to dig out of the hole and build a lead on the Bulls before half. Khris Middleton hit his second three of the half just before the buzzer to give Milwaukee their largest lead of the game going into the locker room, 63-54. Khris led the Bucks with 16 points, followed by Brogdon with 13, and Ersan, Isaiah, and Brook with 6 each. Lauri Markkanen secured his 9th straight game with 20 points in the first half. Lavine and Robin Lopez each had 10. The 38-16 second quarter was exactly what Milwaukee needed to gain confidence going into the second half without Giannis.
The second half started exactly how Bucks’ fans hoped. “The Prez” Malcolm Brogdon knocked down a three followed by a Bledsoe three on the next possession to force a timeout from Jim Boylen just 2 minutes into the quarter. The offense got comfortable and kept a double-digit lead for the first 6 minutes of the third quarter. In the continuation of the battle between the Lopez brothers from earlier this season, Brook stuffed Robin at the rim in the middle of the third quarter to silence the crowd’s abrupt roar. Ultimately it was Robin who had the more impactful quarter as he pushed his point total to 23 and kept Chicago in it after the third quarter ended in favor of Milwaukee, 90-80. Middleton led the Bucks with 20/4/1 followed by Brogdon with 16/1/4. Milwaukee was in great position to close a game out on the road without their franchise guy.
Coach Bud started the final period with a big lineup that included Ersan, Snell, and Mirotic with Khris and Malcolm running the guards. This size + shooting combination proved to be a real problem for Chicago. The Bulls relied on their ability to shoot threes and when they weren’t going down they looked frustrated. On the other end, every player in the game for Milwaukee was shooting a consistent three that Chicago couldn’t catch up to and the game began to slip from the home crowd. Robin Lopez tried to regain the intensity and attention in the stadium by hitting a deep three to trim the lead back down to 10. Brook answered with a driving and-1 dunk immediately after and that about sums up how this game went for the Bulls post-first quarter. Jim Boylen took a timeout with 3 minutes to go, Bulls down by 20. The end-of-the-bench subs came in for both teams as fans began to head for the exits. There was still some excitement left to be had for both side’s fans. Christian Wood showed his athleticism with an emphatic dunk that brought Giannis out to nearly half court yelling and cheering. A couple possessions later, Wood went to the line for two shots and missed both which gives every fan in attendance a free Portillo’s hot dog. Personally, I’ll take the dunk and the win, 117-106.
Khris and Malcolm each had 22 points to lead the Bucks on a just 13-31 from the floor combined but went 7-12 from deep.
Despite going 0-7 from three, Brook Lopez finished with 13 points on 12 shots to match Mirotic’s 13 points on 11 shots.
Milwaukee swept the season series with the Bulls for just the second time in franchise history, the other occurrence being the 2000-01 season. They improve their road record to a league best 21-9 and sit 2.5 games ahead of Toronto in the Eastern Conference Standings. Their win streak is now at 5 and 8 on the road. The Bucks will travel to the west coast to visit the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.