Gather round my friends on this blistery evening, and let me tell you a tale of how the Milwaukee Bucks enveloped their poor neighbors to the south, the Chicago Bulls, in a 108-97 victory. An outsider may look at this score and deem this a “close game”; some Bulls fans may even try to tell you the same thing. Fear not neighbor, for I am here to tell you this was not a close game, but instead a bullying beatdown of BMO lore. Some late-game heroics may have helped the Bulls retain a modicum of pride, but this story starts first and foremost with our peppy, young protagonists.
Giannis Antetokounmpo plastered Chicago with 30 points, 14 rebounds, three assists three steals and a block on 13-27 shooting. Jabari Parker chipped in with his own strong outing with 28 points, five boards and three assists with Dellavedova bringing up the rear and adding nine points including a clutch three late to close out the game.
Chicago played haphazardly all night, with Jimmy Butler scoring only 21 on 6-16 shooting. Dwayne Wade posted 20, and despite getting Chicago back into the game early in the fourth, he finished -28 on the night. Maybe their best player tonight, Taj Gibson, managed 19 points on 7-11 shooting in only 24 minutes, but didn’t appear at all in the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee fed off Chicago’s reckless play, scoring 25 points off 17 Bulls turnovers. The Bucks ran out to an early lead with stellar first quarters from Giannis and Jabari combining for 24. They maintained a steady beatdown of the Bulls all game long, shooting 11-20 (55%) from three on the night compared to Chicago’s 5-19 performance. Both teams wound up at 47% overall, but Milwaukee had 21 more attempts than the Bucks on the night after nabbing 13 offensive boards.
Milwaukee’s largest lead got to 27, and Chicago only found its way into the game late through Wade dipping into his fountain of youth and maintaining a 22-7 edge at the free throw line. Ultimately their threat proved ephemeral, and a Delly three-pointer sealed it.
Milwaukee raced out to start the game, with Giannis showing no hesitation in nailing a deep three to start the festivities. He nailed another jumper a few possessions later, and Jabari crashed the party with coast-to-coast finishes and a three sprinkled in to launch the Bucks to a 16-8 lead. That vaulted to 23-12 after Jabari Parker got his twelfth point in only seven minutes with a dunk that tested the BMO’s structural capacity:
Jabari left at the 3:29 mark, and Giannis returned to pick up right where Parker left off with a finger roll and confident three as the quarter wound down, giving Milwaukee a 30-18 lead as their two young studs managed 12 points each in the first.
The pounding continued in the second, with Mirza Teletovic splashing two of his rapid-fire threes and Milwaukee continuing its dominance on the break with a Giannis jam giving Milwaukee a 12-0 edge in fast break points. After some pinpoint passing delivered Giannis an uncontested slam in the lane, Jabari splashed his third three of the night to make it 52-28 Milwaukee. Malcolm Brogdon dished two sweet dimes to Parker and Snell respectively, and Chicago made a brief run as the half wound down to get Milwaukee’s lead down to 19 at halftime 64-45.
Milwaukee shot 55% on the half, including 8-10 from three with Giannis and Jabari a perfect 5-5 from deep. Giannis had 20 points and seven rebounds on 9-16 shooting with Parker adding 17 on a near-perfect 7-8 from the floor. Taj Gibson was the only competent Bull in the first half with 17 points while Jimmy Butler added 10. Wade was but a whisper with only four points.
A surprising Rondo three early in the third was about all the excitement the Bulls mustered in the quarter, as Milwaukee reached the bonus with 8:37 still left in the third. Giannis stroked two free throws to make it 72-50. Chicago went butterfingers with the ball in their hands with Wade dribbling it off his knee and two plays later, Giannis forced a steal where Jabari dribbled upcourt before feeding it back to Giannis over the outstretched arms of Butler. Casual:
Oh but the fun continued with a Giannis pump-fake on Lopez leading to an easy Parker slam. The Bulls interior defense started turning into vapor, as they gave up back-to-back baskets on easy cuts from Parker and Snell to keep the lead at 84-64. Wade reached into the well to block Brogdon as the third quarter ended, but the Bulls remained down 88-66. Giannis and Jabari have combined for 50 points at this point.
Dwayne Wade reached into his tote bag of tricks to start the fourth, helping spur a 12-0 Bulls run with 10 points on his own, cutting the lead to 95-83. Milwaukee maintained control with a Giannis lay-in, but when Chicago started threatening again, Giannis expressed his displeasure with the Bulls sticking around:
Chicago stayed with it, and a Butler three pointer brought them within eight points at 103-95 Bucks, but back-to-back blocks from Giannis and Henson on Butler staved off the Bulls’ last gasps. Delly nailed a pull-up three-pointer with a minute and a half left, and the Bucks came away with a 108-97 win.
- Brian Anderson mentioned on the telecast that this was the first time TNT has been to a game in Milwaukee since 2002. Giannis was eight years old then. Ask Jeeves was still a reliable search engine.
- Giannis and Jabari managed 24 of Milwaukee’s 30 first quarter points. Both of them splashed two threes in the quarter to boot.
- John Henson shot a three near the end of the 2nd quarter on a pass from Jabari Parker. It was the fifth three-point attempt of his career. Still, maybe the weirdest part was it came after a timeout during which they, maybe, drew up that play? In some cultures, I’m pretty sure that’s a slight so heinous it warrants banishment.
- Brewhoop Professor Emeritus Alex Boeder was keeping track of the game’s real score, and here’s what he had after a Jabari Parker dunk with 5:24 left in the 3rd quarter:
Close game: Bulls 54 Giannis/Jabari 47— Alex Boeder (@alexboeder) December 16, 2016
- Nikola Mirotic didn’t appear in the game tonight. This was the first DNP-Coach’s Decision of his career according to the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson:
Portis in over Mirotic again. This would be 1st DNP-CD of Mirotic's career. Played all 82 rookie yr. Missed 16 gms to appendectomy last yr.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 16, 2016
- Longtime TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager passed away today at the age of 65 after a lengthy fight with Leukemia. Other people can speak far more eloquently than myself about his meaningful place within the NBA and the impossible number of people he touched with his ceaseless positivity and exuberance for life even in the face of an unforgiving disease. I’ll simply say that every time Sager interviewed a coach on the sideline, it always felt like he received honest, meaningful answers from even the most stoic of bench generals. That rarely ever happens, and it requires a unique talent and affable nature that few will ever possess. He will be greatly missed.
- John Henson has crazy long arms, but he still has trouble finishing around the rim. He’s had a few dunk attempts rattle out this year, and he doesn’t quite have the leaping ability off two feet that you’d hope for out of a low-usage, potential rim-runner like him. Jabari had a slick one-handed flick to the middle of the lane for him early in the first, but it caromed off the back of the rim as Henson tried to send it home. 20% of Henson’s plays have come as the roll-man in a pick and roll, and he’s managing only .94 points per possession in those instances, placing him in just the 44th percentile for roll-men.
- Milwaukee did a great job gang-rebounding in the first quarter, with Giannis and Henson doing yeoman’s work combating Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez down low. It let up somewhat in the second half, but Milwaukee still grabbed 13 offensive rebounds compared to Chicago’s six. Chicago had the league’s best offensive rebound rate coming into the game tonight, so Milwaukee will have to hope to replicate some of that gritty magic again tomorrow night.
- Giannis was absolutely feeling himself from the perimeter tonight. At one point in the second quarter, he casually dribbled around the perimeter with Robin Lopez’s shaggy doo sagging off him. Giannis toyed with him before promptly splashing a jumper in his face. Mascots everywhere rejoiced in the undressing of their tormentor.
- The Tony Snell revenge game was pretty representative of Snell himself. Pretty quiet (nine points), blended in, went basically unmentioned.
- Malcolm Brogdon loves himself a good bounce pass whether it’s in the paint or from halfcourt. Here’s another pretty little number:
Malcolm Brogdon finds Jabari Parker for the JAM! https://t.co/3H76fZvGpf— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 16, 2016
- The Bulls interior defense without Lopez or Gibson was horrendous tonight. In multiple instances, Milwaukee players were able to slip unnoticed into the paint as if they were wearing an invisibility cloak. That Portis-Felicio front line has a long ways to go.
- Greg Monroe and John Henson really struggled to finish around the basket tonight. I’m not sure it had anything in particular to do with the Bulls defense, as it happened almost regardless of who the interior defenders were. It felt more like bad luck than anything, something that probably evened out with the Bucks uptick in three-point shooting tonight.