The Bucks ever-so-narrowly missed the chance to win in Chicago for the first time in eight tries. And they did so by missing by a lot. Twice.
With 14 second to go in the fourth and the Bulls up 83-81, Brandon Jennings pulled up for a jumper just past the free throw line, but Derrick Rose blocked the attempt with ease. For Rose, the play provided a bit of sweet redemption because Jennings had forced him into a turnover and then floated a jumper over him just two possessions earlier.
Still, the block gave the ball back to Chicago with little time and less hope. But Joakim Noah (he of the absurd free throw form) spun consecutive free throws off the rim to give Milwaukee hope with 12 seconds to spare.
Unfortunately, the final try proved just as futile as the previous one. Jennings found an all-too-hesitant Ersan Ilyasova beyond the arc who fired a shot that hardly got closer to the rim than when Rose stuffed Jennings. Airball, out of bounds, game over.
The under-one-minute sequences underscored Milwaukee's thin late-game offensive options. Jennings was again very good, but after taking the previous three shots the Bucks had to figure the defense would cave around him. So they tried to spring free Ilysasova, who with the game on the line came up just as his final line (0-3 for 0 points and 3 fouls.) indicates: empty.
Brandon Jennings. There is style (personified by God Shammgod here) and there is substance (think Tim Duncan since the first time you saw him play until further notice). Jennings shows both plenty of style and plenty of substance. And not just "for a 20 year-old" either. Case in anecdotal point: late second-quarter, Young Buck knifes down the middle of the lane and every-so-slightly darts left, helping draw attention away from Dan Gadzuric, who is cutting to his right. A simple around-the-back pass results in a
n easy dunk for Gadzuric. Style and substance, at once.
Jennings certainly more than held his own in an initial matchup with Derrick Rose, an accomplishment in itself. Unafraid to assume the desperately-needed role of scoring point guard on a team with limited firepower and without its best scorer, the rook' netted a cool 25 points. As such, he's led the Bucks in scoring in all three games. And he's fast showing a defensive character. Jennings led the club with a pair of steals, and he defended Rose into a turnover on a decisive play with less than half a minute in the game. In fact, he stayed in front of Rose pretty nicely for much of the game, and contributed to Chicago's point guard pretty pedestrian 5 assist, 5 turnover line. For Jennings, 25 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, some learning, and even more growing. Well-done.
Andrew Bogut. The defense was mostly steady, and though we could use a few more offensive bursts with Redd sidelined, Bogut stepped up on both ends of the floor tonight. 'Drew threw in eight straight in the second quarter, with all but one shot coming from one or the other baseline on running half-hook types. The Bucks again found Bogut for a few scores in the fourth, and he finished with 16 points, a delightful sum after the first two games.
Maybe you watched the second Bucks/Bulls preseason game, probably not. Bogut didn't play, which worked out nicely for Joakim Noah, who pitched in 23 points and 20 boards. With the Bucks' big man back in the middle tonight, Noahwas nearly nothing until an emphatic slam late in the fourth quarter. Not coincidental.
Charlie Bell. Far from a poor showing in a fill-in role for Redd starting at the two, Bell began the night by frustrating John Salmons, which led to a 3-12, 4-turnover night for Chicago's starting shooting guard. And while he couldn't replicate a Redd-like scoring punch, he did notch 11 points on 5-11 from the field and hit a big three in the fourth quarter to close the gap to 78-75. In sum, Bell played a great game off the bench, only he was forced into the starting lineup before that could happen.
2. Players not named Brandon Jennings (who made 3-4) on the Bucks combined to make two free throws tonight in Chicago. Not a terribly efficient two free throws either, considering it required six attempts. The Bulls absolutely hammered the Bucks at the line, making 20-31 compared to 5-10. That major descrepancy tipped the final score scale in Chicago's favor.
5. The Bulls connected on their final five attempts from long-distance. And that came after an 0-6 start on threes in the first half. Jannero Pargo (2-3) and Brad Miller (1-1) delivered off the bench for big threes and combined for 23 points -- a whole lot more than the combined eight points Milwaukee got from six different reserves. And the Bucks' bench shot 0-6 on three-pointers, including Ersan's Air.
12. Rose's block on Jennings was the most memorable (and reminiscent of this one against Rondo in the playoffs), but it was just one of 12 for the Bulls. Noah led the way with five while Deng and Salmons followed with a pair each. Each Bucks starter was blocked at least once, and Jennings and Delfino were each stuffed thrice. This group isn't going to make that many shots in the first place; can't afford that many with no hope whatsoever of making it to the basket. Meanwhile, Bogut registered three of Milwaukee's five blocks.
Super Tuesday. Like every election day, statisticians tonight projected that candidates won political elections far before all of the votes were counted. Mattero'fact, even before everyone voted, they drew conclusions by considering populations and samples. And they always are able to do this with (varying degrees of) confidence. This type of scientific, qualitative predictive analysis would typically caution against reading too much into even a purely random sample size of 3 out of 82. Even if the results are overwhelming. And it's fine (if not wise) to keep that general line of logic in mind when considering the early Brandon Jennings Rookie of the Year campaign. Then again, Jennings has every look of a top contender thus far. He surely has the attention of voters here and now. After a More-Than-Good Friday in Philly and Stirring Saturday in Milwaukee, this was a rather Super Tuesday in Chicago for Jennings. Looking forward to this ____ Friday in Minneapolis.
Bogut/Jennings. As noted above. With Redd out, this inside-outside duo will need to produce games like this for Milwaukee to have a shot to win. And like tonight, that might not even be good enough. But these two can give the Bucks a chance.
Up... The Bucks carried their momentum from the triumph at the BC on Saturday to the Windy City in a most excellent first quarter, stealing a 25-13 lead after the first twelve. And they fought through the second on the back of Bogut to carry a healthy 14-point lead into the locker room. Really inspiring stuff. They looked like a club coached by Scott Skiles, and I mean that in only the best way: on the ground fighting for loose balls, hounding defensively both inside and out, everyone passing the ball, and generally making the most of a very limited unit.
...and Down. But in stark contrast to the game before, the Bucks deflated in the third quarter, and they couldn't keep pace with a free-flowing Bulls attack that moved the ball quickly offensively. After holding the Bulls to an awfully silly 29 points in the first half, the Bucks allowed 54 after halftime. A two-point loss in Chicago on the heels of losing Redd isn't so bad, but when you have an 18 point cushion on the road, don't lose it -- because this team won't have that very often in the first place.
Eight too much. The divisional and geographic rivals continue to fatten up against their northern neighbors: The Bulls have run off eight straight wins on their home floor against the Bucks.
Defending Deng. Luol Deng, Man of the Match. 24 points, 20 rebounds, and if that doesn't explain his aggressiveness enough then the fact he made 9-11 free throws compared to Milwaukee's entire team making 5-10 free throw should give you a feel. The Bucks threw some different people at Deng, but that didn't much matter; not tonight.