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Milwaukee vs. Chicago: Bull-ogna

Too many turnovers and two key mental lapses doom the Bucks down the stretch

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NBA: Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thanksgiving, Bucks fans! While there’s plenty to be thankful for regarding your favorite team, Wednesday’s result is not one of them, as Milwaukee came up short to Chicago by a 118-113 final.

Though Milwaukee got off to a hot start from downtown and held a nine-point advantage early, Chicago battled back quickly with some sweet shooting of their own and even grabbed a brief one-point edge. The Bucks finished ahead after one, however, up 33-32 behind 11 early points from Brook Lopez.

In the second, the Bucks staked themselves to a 12-point lead about midway through, but the Bulls quickly shaved that down to four. Chicago again jumped in front by a single point minutes later, and without Jrue Holiday’s 15-footer at the horn, it would have stayed that way going into the half. Instead, the Bucks went into the locker room up 62-61.

Chicago quickly jumped in front by five in the third’s initial minutes behind a flurry of DeRozan buckets, but Giannis finally found his groove after just 8 first-half points, totaling 11 in the period. However, DeRozan’s typical mid-range repertoire and a stint on the bench for Giannis due to foul trouble put the Bulls up 8 with just under a minute remaining in the period. Their margin was 90-83 as we moved to the fourth as DeRozan went over 30 points on a late trey.

Milwaukee found itself down ten after a couple of minutes in the final stanza, but a 9-0 run sliced the deficit to one as Giannis kept earning trips to the line, and Milwaukee fleetingly jumped back on top with 7:23 to go. Both sides traded makes as the minutes ticked down, but a Coby White three with 1:15 remaining tied it entering the final minute. After Giannis committed a charge, the Bucks left him alone in the corner with 46.5 left, and he paid it off as Giannis helped over to DeRozan. With the Bulls up three, Jrue Holiday then airmailed the ensuing inbounds pass. Nikola Vucevic buried a dagger from the top of the arc on the next possession with 20.6 seconds left to go up six. Chicago held on from there, winning 118-113.

Three Things

  • Giannis started his feast after the half. Giannis began this one an icy 3/10 from the field. Early on, Patrick Williams blocked Giannis at the rim and managed to thwart Giannis once more after a defensive rebound. It seemed like he fought through a lot of Chicago contact down low without any notice from the zebras, so you can understand what seemed like poor touch on his finishes. In fact, he did not attempt his first free throws until early in the second half and split them, but the miss swirled out. The next time he went to the line, he nailed them both, equaling his first-half output in barely three minutes of action in the third. He hit his next few before air-balling one, finishing 6/9 at the line. Moreover, he found a rhythm even as the Bulls maintained what he described as a highly-physical defense

Splash Mountain stays open over the holiday. Lopez hit his first three attempts from outside on his way to 16 first-half points. While the deep ball stopped falling as the game continued, he then went to work inside and even hit a baseline J for good measure. His impact was pretty limited for the rest of the game, however, as he only scored twice after half while coach Mike Budenholzer went with a small lineup for much of the fourth.

Jrue Holiday has been a bit of an adventure since returning. In 36 minutes, Holiday attempted only six shots while orchestrating the offense to the tune of 11 assists, but seven turnovers came with it. The most costly was obviously the last with his team down three, as the play Bud drew up fell apart to some degree, and his pass sailed over Giannis’ outstretched arms (in the presser, Giannis felt he was held by his man on that play). Getting to the line for eight attempts is a big bonus with him, but he struggled a bit as the main assignment on DeRozan. Still, he was a team-high +12, the only Bucks in double figures in that category. After the game, he felt his shot selection was lacking:

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • The Bucks wore their new blue City Edition uniforms last night, but couldn’t use the accompanying blue floor, which apparently already needs some repairs after debuting last week.
  • Wesley Matthews returned to the court after just over a week with a sore hamstring, hitting a triple soon after subbing in for four first-quarter minutes. He finished with six in nearly 17 minutes, including another three-ball.
  • Pat Connaughton started the second quarter. It took him a few minutes to sink his first bucket, but he was all over the court otherwise, tipping out misses for offensive rebounds and jumping in passing lanes. No visible problems with his mobility after missing nearly five weeks with a calf strain.
  • In the first minute of the second, Zach LaVine took a three in the corner and kicked his leg so far out that he kicked George Hill in a rather sensitive area of the male physique. Unlike that incident with Goran Dragic (who plays for Chicago now, but missed last night’s tilt), the refs caught it this time and upgraded it to a flagrant-1. Hill then hit both free throws and nailed a corner three soon after before exiting, but he returned later in the quarter.
  • Ball movement was a point of emphasis for both teams in the first half, as 19 of Chicago’s first 22 field goals were assisted, compared to 15 of 21 for Milwaukee. Each team ran more isolation through their stars in the second half, so those numbers dropped to 11 of 21 and 9 of 20, respectively.
  • Dear Bulls fans booing Allen... just get over it. I will to hand it to you, though, for traveling north in good numbers.
  • Jevon Carter’s first points came with 2:41 remaining but they were big ones, putting the Bucks back up one. He didn’t rack up much in the way of box score numbers, but he did a stellar job as the primary defender on LaVine, who put up 18 on 6/17 shooting.
  • DeMar DeRozan blocked a Brook Lopez jumper late in the third. Just... how?
  • Chicago is dead last in the NBA in threes attempted per game at 28.5, but hoisted an outlying 42 in last night’s contest. In the presser, Bud indeed expressed his dissatisfaction given Milwaukee’s’ newfound success walling off the arc, mentioning he’d scrutinize the film to diagnose any issues. The Bulls put up 10 from the corner, far above the Bucks’ 5.4 season average, so the easy answer—which also matches the eye test—is to cut down on help.
  • By my count, 11 of the Bucks’ 20 turnovers were of the dead-ball, and thus unforced variety. They had their share of bad passes or strips, but the number of offensive fouls and travel calls is worth kicking yourself over.
  • Let’s end on something brighter, shall we? The Bucks hold the NBA’s second-best record through Thanksgiving, all without a critical offensive player. As the season kicked off and it became clear both Middleton and Connaughton would miss several weeks, I thought that 11-6 by the holiday was an attainable, if higher end of potential outcomes given their schedule. Not only did Milwaukee exceed that optimistic take, they did it while enduring short-term injuries to other critical players. As the team moves closer to full health and the slate of opponents toughens, they’re in a great spot.

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