Giannis Antetokounmpo gave the Milwaukee Bucks everything he could offensively -- until he wasn't able to add anything else. The final result was a career-high 34 points, nine assists and five rebounds, but it ultimately wasn't enough in the Bucks' shorthanded 102-98 loss to the Chicago Bulls Sunday evening.
Antetokounmpo was practically the only spark for the Bucks early, driving to the rim with ease and scoring on the break. He scored 16 of the Bucks' first 24 points and had 27 after three quarters to help the Bucks cut Chicago's 19-point first half lead to a single possession on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter. An assist to Johnny O'Bryant on the perimeter eventually cut the deficit to one, 85-84, with eight minutes to go.
But that's when the Bulls made one particular adjustment in the fourth quarter (it took that long) and decided to take Mike Dunleavy off of Antetokounmpo and go with defensive juggernaut Jimmy Butler, instead.
Dunleavy wasn't as aggressive against Antetokounmpo las in previous matchups; Giannis didn't feel a whole lot of defensive pressure and was able to attack (not literally) and make plays off the dribble pretty comfortably.
But Butler guarded Antetokounmpo starting at the 9:15 mark of the fourth and held him to just four points the majority of the quarter. He tightened up while daring him to settle for jumpers. It worked, and Butler ended up going to work on his end to put the Bucks away down the stretch, even with Giannis adding a late three once the Bulls had taken control.
"Giannis was unbelievable tonight. We had to get Jimmy onto him." Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after the game.
Afterward Giannis said he should've deferred the ball to teammate Jabari Parker on offense with him being locked up. Parker had a mismatch with Justin Holiday guarding him late.
"Obviously Butler is a good defender, so we had to figure out other things to do." Giannis said after the game. "We had to go through Jabari."
Butler finished the game with 25 points — six of which came in the final four minutes, including a clutch jumper with under a minute to go. That jumper by Butler gave the Bulls a four-point cushion that Antetokounmpo and the Bucks couldn't respond to.
Parker finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds — double-double No. 6 on the season — to accompany Antetokounmpo on the night.
— Butler shot 90.9 percent from the field tonight against the Bucks (10-of-11), which set a career-high for field goal percentage in a game (a minimum of five attempts).
— Damien Inglis started in place of Khris Middleton, who was a late scratch because of a thigh injury. Middleton was the only Bucks player to appear in all 76 games before sitting out tonight.
— The Bulls won the season series against the Bucks, 3-1. They've won nine of their last 11 regular season games against Milwaukee.
— Rashad Vaughn has recorded three blocks in his last three games.
— The tag-team of Antetokounmpo and Parker scored all of Milwaukee's points in the first quarter (Giannis 16, Jabari eight). "When our top scorer is missing, both of us had to be aggressive. I talked to Jabari right before the game and told him that we have to be aggressive and push the team. We've got to make the other guys play hard."
— Here are the amount of threes the Bucks allowed the Bulls to attempt in games this season: 19, 29, 25 and 26.
— The Bucks started the second quarter with the lineup of Tyler Ennis, Greivis Vasquez, Parker, John Henson and Miles Plumlee. Chicago exploited that unit on the defensive end and shaped up on offense, too. It was surprising to see that (again) Jabari wasn't the main guy touching the ball on offense (it was Vasquez) despite Giannis resting on the bench and Middleton out. I asked Jabari about this lineup after the game and he said the biggest role he takes with it is leadership.
— Vaughn's blocks in the last three have been pretty impressive. I don't know how he's done it, but he manages to leave and attack his defender at the right time.
— It never fails to amaze me how many Bulls fans show up to these games and out-populate Bucks fans.
— That basket by O'Bryant was his lone real highlight from the game. He played 21 minutes tonight and Kidd thought he was a positive off the bench.
"JOB gave us some energy, he gave us some life and he played hard."
— The Bucks' loss and Orlando's home win over Memphis leaves the Bucks (32-45) in 10th place in the lotto standings, with Orlando (33-44) one game better in 11th. Denver (32-46, 9th) and Sacramento (31-46, 8th) are both within a game as well.