Just when the Bucks thought they had the Bulls by the horns, Chicago puffed, racked their hooves and gave Milwaukee a devastating Game 3 knockout instead.
Up 18 at one point in front of a sellout 18,717 crowd against the Bulls, Milwaukee allowed Chicago to pound the rock inside and answer back with 14 unanswered points while ending the first half on an 18-4 run, cutting a double-digit deficit to just four. The game stayed tight from that point on, flipping back-and-forth seven times until the end of regulation. As John Henson explained after the game, the Bucks may have assumed the Bulls would lay down and hit the hay for Saturday.
"We came out and we got a lead, and we thought they were going to rollover for a second ... and then they hit some big shots and got life back into it.
A team like the Bulls, you can't give them second and third opportunities to get back into the game, and that's what we did. It bit us in the end."
And after the first two games of the series, the Bucks knew how easy it was for Chicago to take a deficit and eat it up during the game like fans were eating these. After 17 first half points from Giannis Antetokounmpo -- just one-point off the amount of points he scored in the first two games of the series combined -- Chicago was money from the 3-point line all night, hitting 14, and Derrick Rose completely dictated the result of the game at various moments by dishing and getting his teammates open looks after drives to the rim (Tony Snell nailed four of those triples for crying out loud). Still, the Bucks fought back late behind Khris Middleton, even if last-second shots from Middleton and O.J. Mayo respectively were missed as the Bucks couldn't really get a clean attempt each time in OT.
"We had a great chance to win the game twice." Head coach Jason Kidd said. "Effort was there the whole night and guys played their heart out to give us a chance to win against a very elite team."
Committing four turnovers allowed eight points for the Bulls in the second OT on top of the Bucks going just 2-for-7 from the field. Rose scored half of Chicago's 12 points as communication dropped and inexperience kicked in for Milwaukee.
"I don't know," Michael Carter-Williams said regarding what went wrong in the second overtime. "Maybe we panicked some plays ... mental mistakes because we were tired. I'm not sure, we can't make those mistakes if we expect to win against a team like the Bulls."
"Offensively, we were kind of slow to get into some things." Henson said. "We've been in situations like that before so, it's not an excuse."
Rose finished the game with 34 points on 12 made baskets, including a playoff-high five threes, and recorded eight dimes. Nearly half of his points came in the second half of the game, including nine in the third as he led the Bulls past 25-18 in the quarter.
"It's tough. Derrick Rose put his mark on the game, Henson said. "You've got to take them out."
"He's playing at a high level and playing as an MVP." Kidd said of Rose.
It's terribly unlikely that the Bucks will turn the series around after Thursday's collapse, but being able to avoid a sweep and avoid the embarrassment of being booted out at home in front of their home crowd is what's left at stake. Dating back to their 2010 series against Atlanta, the Bucks have lost nine consecutive playoff games overall, and four straight to Chicago, which dates back to 1990.