A season sweep of the Chicago Bulls will have to wait another year, as the Milwaukee Bucks fell beneath an uncharacteristically sweet shooting night from deep by the Bulls. Incapable of stopping them defensively, the Bucks gave the Bulls plenty of easy shots inside and out, falling 109-94.
Giannis started strong with a 10-point first quarter, but Chicago stifled his transition game with their inability to miss. He ended with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Greg Monroe played a key role in keeping it close in the first half, finishing with 16 points and four rebounds. Khris Middleton had another off-shooting day, going 6-17 for fourteen points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals.
Nikola Mirotic headed up Chicago’s attack, going off for 28 points and eight rebounds. Jimmy Butler set up plenty of those shots, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds, 14 assists, and three steals. Robin Lopez added 18 points, and Rajon Rondo - the same Rajon Rondo who could barely see the floor earlier in the season against Milwaukee - almost had a triple-double with 18 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
Milwaukee gave up a 12-point lead in the first half heading into halftime, and were entirely outplayed in the second half. They shot 44.0% for the game to Chicago’s 54.1%, but the Bulls were an astounding 10-21 from deep. Milwaukee, meanwhile, was only 7-23 (30.4%). The Bucks reached 18 fast break points for the game, but only had 14 points off 15 Bulls’ turnovers. Quite simply though, the Bulls were just hitting shots today. For the most part, Milwaukee wasn’t.
Thon began Milwaukee’s scoring with an impressive pivot after an offensive board to use the rim for shielding Robin Lopez from blocking his shot, leading to an and-one. Giannis ran right into Chicago’s interior defense, providing his usual array of bombastic finishes, the last of which tied the game at 16 and fooled Mirotic so bad he looked like he was performing a sideline trust fall.
The scoring spree continued, with a battle between Greg Monroe and Robin Lopez taking center stage in the latter half of the quarter. Monroe made Lopez look foolish with his thoughtful pivots in the post while Lopez knuckled home several jumpers. Both finished with eight for the quarter. Giannis slammed home one last transition dunk for 10 points in the quarter, and Milwaukee led 31-29 after one.
Greg Monroe continued bullying the Bulls for post finishes, with Jason Terry splashing in a three and Telly adding his own from deep to push Milwaukee ahead 43-31. Milwaukee’s bench smacked the Bulls’ lineup to nowhere of Grant-MCW-Zipser-Portis-Lauvergne. Jimmy Butler and the starters subbed back in midway through though, and the Bulls made their run as another Lopez midranger brought them within 49-43. Chicago erased Milwaukee’s 12-point lead, pulling even at 52 before Giannis finally got on the board in the second quarter with a free throw. Chicago went into half up 56-55 after Zipser blocked a Middleton jumper.
Giannis had 11 points in the first half, but only one in the second quarter. Greg Monroe led the team with 12 points, and Middleton added 10 of his own. For Chicago, Nikola Mirotic led the way with 16 on 7-8 shooting, Robin Lopez had 14 points and Jimmy Butler tallied 11 points and nine assists.
The Bulls shot 59.5% on the half, with Milwaukee going cold down the first half stretch and finishing at a still respectable 52.3%. Chicago managed to assist 20 of their 25 baskets in the first half to only 10 assists on 23 makes for Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Bucks dominance in the paint (32-20), was more than matched by Chicago’s midrange mastery, where they tallied 22 points to only four for Milwaukee.
After Khris Middleton started off the second half with two straight makes, the Bulls responded with a 19-8 run. Nikola Mirotic bombed in two deep three-pointers and Paul Zipser knocked home two shots, the latter of which forced a Bucks’ timeout. Chicago’s piping hot shooting remained fully in effect, with even Rajon Rondo rattling in a corner three. Milwaukee hung tough hitting runners in the lane and a Teletovic stepback three, but another Robin Lopez make made it 87-76. A Giannis dunk to finish the third did little to raise Milwaukee’s spirits or chances of winning, and they went to the fourth down 91-79.
Jimmy Butler opened up the fourth scoring seven straight points for Chicago, as three Middleton jumpers missed from outside. Everything came up Bulls’ down the stretch. Chicago continued to hit whatever shots they could find, and the Bucks’ halfcourt offense looked bogged down with their three-pointers unable to fall. Milwaukee lost in the end, 109-94.
- Thon Maker’s first basket was another impressive one from the young player. Using the hoop to shield Lopez showed his smarts, and he hooked in the shot while getting fouled. He attempted a pull-up hook shot in the paint later in the quarter too. His finishing around the rim remains a struggle, so any progress is cause for guarded optimism at this point.
- Gus Johnson used, “The Old Man and the Three” as a call for one of Jason Terry’s three-pointers. It was good and Gus Johnson is good.
- Every one of Brogdon’s finishes seem like he’s barely gonna get the ball there. He had a reverse layup in the second quarter where he used every bit of that 6’10” wingspan to hit it home. That’s been true on a lot of his dunks too. Unfortunately, he also had three missed bunnies tonight, and his finishing around the rim remains a strong area for improvement going forward. He’s shooting 54.2% in the restricted area, which is right around the 33rd percentile among guards with at least one attempt per game from there. He has however eclipsed Dellavedova, who’s been one of the worst finishers at the rim this year:
The bottom 10 in FG% within three feet of the rim (minimum 50 attempts): pic.twitter.com/OX1m6swNzM— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) March 21, 2017
- Giannis Antetokounmpo had another bizaare stretch of deference after a quarter of domination. Similar to the game against Atlanta, his first quarter demonstrated the Bulls’ utter inability to defend him. After reaching 10 points and returning at the midway mark of the second quarter, he looked hesitant to attack and only got one point in the period. For the rest of the game, he looked out of sorts against Chicago’s defense. He had scoreless first and third quarters last Tuesday against the Trail Blazers, and had a similar disappearing performance in the second quarter against Atlanta last Friday. I’m not sure what that stems from or why he occasionally finds it difficult to re-assert himself into the Bucks’ offense, but it’s a peculiar subplot that will be interesting to watch if this team makes the playoffs.
- Chicago’s hot shooting meant there were little opportunities for Milwaukee to take the ball off a miss and score in transition. The few times they did in the third quarter, Giannis took the ball directly to the hoop, knowing their halfcourt offense wasn’t nearly as efficient. He managed to get a dunk, but the Bucks’ own defensive miscues wound up stifling the offensive success they’ve had against the Bulls this season.
- Khris Middleton had two unfortunate defensive possessions in a row in the fourth. First, he missed a wide open corner three that caromed off to Jimmy Butler, who took it to the rack on the other end where Middleton didn’t recover to stop him. Then, he complained for a foul call on a shot against Denzel Valentine that looked totally fine to me, garnering himself a technical foul while Butler hit a three on the other end. Uncharacteristic stuff from him.
- Chicago is the fourth worst three-point shooting team in the league. They were not that today, shooting 47.6% particularly because of Nikola Mirotic’s 6-9 day from behind the arc. Giannis was unable to keep track of him all game, and Mirotic took full advantage. Mirotic is quietly having a very timely late season surge given his impending free agency after this season.
- Milwaukee couldn’t take advantage of a loss by the Atlanta Hawks today to the Brooklyn Nets to nab sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll next take on the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday evening at 6:00 PM.