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Recap: Bulls 117, Bucks 102

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Box Score / AP Recap / JS Recap

So much for the eighth spot.  The Bucks dropped their third in a row and fell to 1-3 against the Bulls this year, as a combination of old and new faces helped Chicago hold off the Bucks' second half rally and cruise to a 117-102 decision. Milwaukee led early but the Bulls eventually found their stroke and led by as many as 16 in the second quarter, outworking the Bucks who seemed a bit too content with their decent first quarter.  The Bucks slowly chipped away and were within one possession twice early in the fourth, but had neither the offensive ammo nor the defensive chops to hang with the surging Bulls.

Ben Gordon scored 15 of his 34 in the second quarter and the Bulls also got an aggressive 27 from Derrick Rose and 21 from recent acquisition John Salmons. With Brad Miller also contributing some excellent minutes off the bench (12 pts, nine rebs, four dimes), it just seems like Vinny Del Negro will have to seriously mess things up for the Bulls not to make the playoffs.

Three Bucks

  • Luc Mbah a Moute.  Tough to ask for more from the Bucks' jack-of-all-trades.  Mbah a Moute scored 21 on a tidy 7/8 fg and 7/9 ft to go along with 11 boards and five steals in 39 minutes.  He even hung with Gordon early, though the Bucks' other perimeter defenders couldn't contain him in the end.
  • Ramon Sessions.  Sessions was careless at times (five turnovers) but the offense simply didn't work without him.  While Rose tied a career-high with 27, Sessions scored 20 on 16 shots to go with 11 dimes and five boards. 
  • Charlie Villanueva.  Another tough shooting night for CV, who made just 9/22 from the field for 19 points.  But CV was doing some of the little things for a change: 12 boards, half of them offensive, three blocks, and a little more muscle around the hoop than we'd come to expect.

Three Numbers

  • 1.  The Bucks were ice cold from deep, making just 1/14 threes compared to 6/12 for Chicago.     
  • 37.  The floor seemed tilted toward the Bulls end much of the night, as they got to the line for a whopping 45 free throws (making 37), compared to just 17/22 for the Bucks.  Some hometown calls?  Sure, but the referees alone can't explain a 30-18 difference in fouls.
  • 17.  If you're not going to shoot well then getting it done on the glass is a must, and the Bucks at least worked hard enough to outrebound the Bulls 49-44 including 17-6 on the offensive end.  Villanueva (six) and Mbah a Moute (five) were the guys doing most of the dirty work.

Three Good

  • Young points.  We all expect Rose to be tormenting the Central Division for the next decade or so, but Sessions continues to show he belongs as well.  He's still finding his way on the defensive end but he more than held his own against a player everyone is rightly tabbing for stardom.
  • Still a Skiles team.  The Bucks were on the verge of getting blown out well before the Bulls padded the score line in the closing minutes, but give them credit: they fought back after a rough second quarter and got to within 87-84 with less than eleven minutes remaining.  Then just like that the Bulls went on an 8-0 run and that was it.
  • Second chances.  The Bucks will have no time to feel sorry for themselves as they head home to play the Warriors tomorrow night at the BC.  Golden State was spanked in Detroit tonight, where they were without Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson and Brandan Wright.  Even if half those guys are back by tomorrow night (not likely), the Warriors in all likelihood will be even more shorthanded than the Bucks.   

Three Bad

  • Second quarter collapse.  The Bucks led by as many as seven in the first quarter before allowing the Bulls to draw within a point after 12 minutes.  But the wheels came off in the second quarter as the Bulls took advantage of a Ridnour/Bell/Bogans/Mbah a Moute/Elson lineup to go on a quick 9-2 run that helped propel them to an 11 point halftime lead.  Sorry, but the Bucks don't defend well enough to be able to play that kind of lineup for even a couple minutes.  Ridnour especially just can't do enough on his own to play with that many scrubs.
  • Perimeter punch.  I liked what Brad Miller brough to the table in the fourth quarter: passing, rebounding and hitting that open mid-range shot, he could very well be a difference-maker in the final month of the season.  But it was otherwise all about the Bulls' smaller guys: Rose, Gordon, Salmons and Hinrich all shot better than 50% from the floor and combined for 93 points.  Yikes.
  • Losing ways.  The Bucks have now dropped seven of nine, and in three of the last six they've lost by 15 or more points.  We all knew Skiles would need smoke and mirrors to sneak this group into the playoffs, but the holes in the roster are showing more and more.  There's no obvious recipe for how this team can win consistently--too soft up front to win halfcourt, defensive games and not deep or good enough shooting the ball to simply outgun opponents.  They'll get a big boost from 11 of their final 17 being at home, but their margin for error is narrowing.