Jimmy Butler (32 points, 10 assists) and Pau Gasol (26 points, 11 rebounds) once again haunted the Milwaukee Bucks as the Chicago Bulls won their fifth straight game, 117-106. Khris Middleton had 26 points to lead the Bucks, hitting 5/10 three-point attempts (great!). The Bucks also got double-doubles from Michael Carter-Williams (20 points, 12 assists) and Greg Monroe (13 points, 12 rebounds), though Chicago's interior defense confounded Monroe into one of his worst offensive performances of the season: he shot just 5-18 from the field and had 4 turnovers. Five of Monroe's shots were blocked, and Chicago swatted 10 of Milwaukee's attempts in all.
Still, Milwaukee's offense once again did enough to give the team a chance. The Bucks committed just 10 turnovers as a team and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds (Monroe alone had 8). They even threw up a respectable 16 three-point attempts, though nearly two-thirds of them came off Khris Middleton's fingertips. Unfortunately, the defense was simply overwhelmed by the familiar combination of Butler and Gasol, with Taj Gibson also blocking 6 shots and grabbing 10 rebounds. The Bucks have yet to find an answer for Gasol, who averaged over 24 points and 13 rebounds per game in 4 meetings with Milwaukee last season. It's perhaps no great surprise that Milwaukee struggles against skilled bigs, but the continued failure to even contain Chicago's inside presence is disheartening.
To their credit, the Bucks showed some resolve in this one, coming back from major deficits early and late. Milwaukee didn't score for nearly four full minutes to begin the game, and after five and a half minutes found themselves down 16-4. However, Carter-Williams, who scored or assisted on 9 of Milwaukee's 11 first-quarter field goals, spearheaded a quick 9-2 run that prompted the Bulls' first timeout. Unfortunately, Chicago hit the gas right after the break and carried a 36-28 lead after one.
Both teams played about even in the second, and with a few minutes left in the third quarter Milwaukee again put the pressure of Chicago. This time led largely by Middleton, the Bucks cut the lead all the way down to a single point before a few late points made it a five-point game entering the fourth. Alas, an unlikely villain then appeared on stage, as Derrick Rose went to work in the fourth quarter and led Chicago to victory. Rose entered the game with about eight and a half minutes remaining and went on to score or assist on five straight buckets.
Giannis Antetokounmpo turned in a solid line with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals. His 17 shot attempts tied for the 3rd-highest number he's had all season. All but one of his makes were at the basket, the lone jumper being a straight-on 21-footer in the second quarter. Jabari Parker, playing in front of his hometown fans for the first time as a pro, added 11 points and 7 rebounds, but hit a middling 5/12 from the field and struggled defensively.
- Dan Sinclair
- There are still 45 games left in the season, but watching the Bucks over the past two weeks it certainly feels like their defense has passed the event horizon. After flashing periods of improved play in December, the Bucks seem to have reverted to just trying to outscore opponents at this point, a fact that has resulted in improved offense but a far more dramatic (and negative) effect on their defense. On the bright side, losing a bunch of games while scoring more points would probably make for a more entertaining ride to the lottery, right?
- Despite allowing just 2/10 shooting from deep in the first half, the Bucks hemorrhaged 67 points in the first two quarters en route to 55% shooting overall from Chicago.
- It was nice to see Giannis post a solid scoring line despite not really getting going with his shot. He badly air-balled a three in the fourth quarter, but worked well off the ball and in transition to get to 18 points.
- MCW's last five games: 14.2 ppg, 8.2 apg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 spg, 1.4 bpg, 52% shooting, 3/3 from deep and just 1.8 turnovers. In short: exactly what you would have hoped he'd be doing coming into the season. Kudos, Mike.
- Bobby Portis doesn't have a superstar ceiling, but you can see why he's already a very productive NBA basketball player. He grabbed eight boards and scored eight points in 21 minutes tonight, and in his typical maniacal fashion picked up an offensive foul in the second half after he vigorously started throwing his elbows around after a defensive rebound. The weirdest part: it didn't appear that he even hit anyone. Depressing thought experiment: how much better would the Bucks be right now if they had drafted Portis and given him Jabari's minutes. OK, don't answer that.
- Frank Madden