So maybe it wasn’t a trouncing till the fourth quarter, but the Bucks eventually laid their third smackdown on the Chicago Bulls this season, 116-96. A near even first half split wide open in the second, as the Bucks’ terrific tandem twisted their way through Bulls’ defenders time and again.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was a stalwart in every aspect of the game, tallying 35 points on 13-19 shooting (8-11 from the line), nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a career-high seven blocks. Jabari Parker came on in the second half, pumping in 27 points, five rebounds, three assists and a block and steal. Not to be outdone, Malcolm Brogdon shook off a shaky start to complete his first career triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists and Greg Monroe added 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Chicago stayed in the game due to the singular brilliance of Jimmy Butler, who had 26 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, but that still seemed like a quiet performance compared to the Bucks’ loud highlights. Nikola Mirotic was the Bulls’ second leading scorer with 13 points, Robin Lopez added 12 while Dwayne Wade shot merely 3-13 for eight points. The MCW revenge game never materialized, as he finished only 1-6 with four points and 1-4 on mostly ill-advised three-pointers.
Despite an 11-1 Chicago start, the Bucks nearly played the Bulls even in the first half, with similar shooting percentages, points in the paint and fast break points. That changed in the second half, when Milwaukee outscored Chicago in fast break points 11-1 and points in the paint, 38-10. The Bulls wound up shooting only 40% on the night, but stayed in the game by shooting 10-27 (37%) from deep to go with 28 free throw attempts. Milwaukee hit a blistering 57% on the night including 9-15 from three.
Milwaukee was out of sorts early, failing to get into their sets quickly and looking sloppier than a New Year’s Eve party at 1:00AM, as Chicago leaped out to an 11-1 lead despite Giannis tallying three early blocks. Greg Monroe finally got Milwaukee’s first bucket after entering at the eight minute mark, and a Giannis putback dunk made it 11-8 at the midway point. Giannis kept scoring tough, late shot-clock buckets to keep the Bucks in it, before exiting the game as Jabari scored his first points of the game to make it 21-18. Nikola Mirotic got a jumper and close finish to keep Chicago ahead 27-22 after one.
The vets flashed for the Bucks to start the second, as Greg Monroe had an elbow jumper and a slam dunk before Jason Terry nailed a pull-up jumper to tie the game at 34. Oh, and Giannis tallied his fourth block on the night sending Wade’s jumper to the suburbs. After some back-and-forth between the two, Giannis gave Milwaukee the lead 43-42 on a thunderous transition jam. A Jimmy Butler and-one on Chicago’s third attempt in a single possession put Chicago up 49-46, and Butler got another layup after a poor defensive effort from Parker minutes later. Still, Giannis finished off an all-encompassing first half with a rebound, full-court push and runner from three-point land to make it 51-49 going into the half.
Giannis led Milwaukee in all facets, with 15 points, five boards, three assists, five blocks and two steals on 6-11 shooting. Those five blocks tied his career high already. Greg Monroe posted one of his best halves of the year, scoring 10 points with six rebounds while Jabari had nine on only five shot attempts.
Jimmy Butler led Chicago with 12 points, while Dwayne Wade added six and Michael Carter-Williams had six points on only 1-6 shooting including 1-4 from deep. Taj Gibson was only 2-11 in the half as well, due in part to Giannis terrorizing him at the rim. Milwaukee shot 44% on the half, but a very effective 5-9 from deep. Chicago shot merely 40%, including 5-13 (39%) on threes,
Jabari Parker started the third with a top of the key jumper to tie it up. Giannis followed it with his career-high sixth block on Wade, and Jabari fed him in the frontcourt for an easy transition slam. Then, Giannis had this outrageous alley-oop that’s best explained in video form as Milwaukee led 59-56:
The Bucks capped off a 12-4 run with a Jabari outlet heave to Brogdon, who finished a layup against Butler to give Milwaukee a 67-60 lead. Chicago stayed in it with Butler and McDermott threes, but Milwaukee kept finding its way to the basket as a Jabari and-one put the Bucks ahead 75-66. Chicago shot its way back into the contest, with Jimmy Butler finding his way to the foul line repeatedly, and a couple of threes dropped to pull Chicago within 79-76 as the third wound down. The period ended at 80-76, as Giannis got his seventh block of the night on Cristiano Felicio’s layup.
Nikola Mirotic hit a three-pointer to start the fourth, but Giannis answered swiftly with an easy and-one drive past Felicio that left the Brazilian looking like a petrified matador. A 7-0 Bucks run ended with a Brogdon dunk that made Felicio the latest print in his ongoing poster series as Milwaukee led 87-79.
Milwaukee let Chicago hang around, but a desperate Jabari three-pointer from the corner gave Milwaukee a 97-86 lead. A straight Giannis flush off a feed from Brogdon started nailing shut the Chicago coffin with the Bucks up 103-90. The Bucks’ starters stayed in the game pretty late, and eventually Brogdon completed his first career triple-double with an assist to Monroe as the Bucks led 111-96. Brogdon added two more assists for good measure, one to Novak and the other to Thon Maker for a three as Milwaukee won, 116-96.
- Miles Plumlee was a late scratch with a sprained right index finger, leaving us with zero chance of seeing the Bucks’ highest-priced bench bookend for the last time this calendar year.
- The Bucks looked positively atrocious to start the game. MCW flummoxed Brogdon, impeding his ability to get the Bucks’ offense even into a basic set. That led to a number of eyesore series including a free-for-all on a loose ball and John Henson launching a deep jumper to beat the shot clock.
- It sure seemed like MCW wanted to show up Brogdon tonight. He practically guarded him at the halfcourt logo in an attempt to pressure him into turnovers, and it actually was somewhat successful in the first. He also tried three three-point attempts in the first quarter, and a questionable runner in the paint. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe he was just playing like usual after all...
- Jason Kidd mentioned trying to get Brogdon more minutes with Greg Monroe tonight, and he put Monroe in with about 8:00 left in the first while keeping Brogdon in for the entire period. As is their MO, there were a few nice connections between the two down low and the Bucks won those minutes, 21-16. He used the same tactic in the second half, with Point Giannis running the offense whenever Jason Terry spelled Brogdon.
- Henson’s suspect hands flashed a few times tonight. He missed two rebounding opportunities late in the second, both of which eventually led to Bulls’ buckets, and had a smattering of issues getting the ball in the hoop quick enough after swift passes from Bucks’ guards. He was the only Buck who finished with a negative plus-minus on the night at -7.
- Rajon Rondo didn’t appear in tonight’s game for the Bulls. Based on his latest level of play, I’m not sure whether that was a good or a bad thing for the Bucks.
- Brogdon was STRUGGLING to start tonight’s game. MCW was in his grill, and he wasn’t able to get in any sort of offensive flow. As the game wound on though, he did a great job of stabilizing his control of the ball and maximizing opportunities in transition. All of his points sans one three-pointer came on a mix of layups and dunks either off passes or on his own penetration. Kudos to him for finishing strong. It was an entertaining statement game between him and MCW. I’ll let you decide the statement each of their respective performances expressed.
- The Bucks’ athleticism is generally impressive, but it sure flashes against a ground-bound team devoid of physical freaks like the Bulls. Anytime the Bucks’ had a highlight play, Chicago’s response was often a herky-jerky and-one or a creaky three-point attempt by McDermott or Mirotic.