Let's start with the good news: The Milwaukee Bucks held Derrick Rose (1/13 fg, 8 pts) to one measly basket and limited Pau Gasol to under 10 shot attempts Monday night. Now if only they could have made a shot themselves, eh?
Michael Carter-Williams (toe) was once again relegated to watching from the bench on Monday night, and neither he nor anyone else with an interest in the Bucks could have cared much for what he saw. With the Bulls' starters failing to make much of an impact, Tony Snell scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half and Nikola Mirotic added 16 points and 14 boards off the bench, leading Chicago past a toothless Bucks squad that could neither make shots (34% field goals, 22% from three) nor grab rebounds (62-41 Chicago). Snell's sharp-shooting second quarter helped the Bulls shake off some early rust to lead by 15 at the half and they never looked back from there, holding the Bucks to a season-worst 71 points.
Only three Bucks hit double figures, but none of them did so efficiently. Ersan Ilyasova started in Jared Dudley's place and battled and chucked his way to 15 points (6/16 fg) and 11 boards, Khris Middleton needed 19 shots to score a team-high 17 (plus six boards and three assists), and Giannis Antetokounmpo hit just 3/10 shots on his way to 11 points, five boards and a block. Jerryd Bayless started for the third straight game and added 8p/8r/5a, though the Bucks never found any offensive fluidity under either Bayless or Tyler Ennis (2/7 fg, 4 pts, 0 ast).
Both teams struggled early, with the Bulls winning the first quarter by attrition, 21-15. Rose led the way with eight points, but it was befitting of both teams' shooting problems that he also missed six of his seven shots. Still, the Bulls didn't give the Bucks much of any daylight inside and forced Milwaukee into settling for mostly midrange jumpers, a recurring theme of the night. It was OK initially when Giannis confidently stroked a pair of long twos, but that kind of shot selection didn't pay dividends for long and the Bulls' transition defense held the Bucks without a transition point in the first half.
Things began to get out of hand in the second quarter thanks to the Bucks' continued shooting struggles. Snell had no such troubles, continually finding himself open when the Bucks tried to help and burying 4/5 triples on his way to 18 points in 17 first-half minutes. Chicago also began to batter the Bucks on the boards, piling up a ridiculous 37-17 margin in the first half. Meanwhile, the Bucks continued to find no room in transition and managed to shoot just 33% on twos and 34% overall, making their 48-33 deficit at the half seem almost charitable.
-- MCW has a chance to return Wednesday when the Bucks host the Sixers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, though it might be more realistic for him to make his debut Friday in L.A. against the Lakers. That should help, but it's unlikely MCW can by himself solve the Bucks' offensive problems, especially given his own problems as a shooter. Jared Dudley will have to hit a shot again (he's 0/9 his last two games), Giannis will have to start getting to the rack again (all three of his baskets were jumpers tonight) and the Bucks' big men will have to do something. John Henson and Zaza Pachulia grabbed a grand total of two rebounds in 22 minutes, while Miles Plumlee looked slightly better (2/5 fg, 5 pts, 2 rebs, 2 blk).
-- Bayless didn't seem interested in pushing the pace much in the first half, though it seemed to become a point of emphasis in the third when the Bucks went small with a Giannis/Dudley/Ilyasova frontline.
-- The Bucks' usual Achilles heel is turnovers, but strangely enough that was actually a strength of the Bucks' offense tonight. Milwaukee turned it over just 10 times compared to 19 for the Bulls, but the Bucks managed just nine fastbreak points and only a +2 margin off turnovers.
-- Heading into the weekend, the Bucks hadn't lost a game by more than eight points in 31 contests, dating all the way back to their road loss in Oklahoma City on December 9. They've now done it twice in a row.