Every time the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls match up, regardless of the circumstance, it is always an entertaining bout between these Central Division rivals. Even with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Cam Payne, and the highly anticipated Damian Lillard all not playing in the preseason opener, it was a close game as the Bucks were able to pull out a 105-102 victory over the Bulls.
Chicago was the aggressor early in this one, leading by as many as 14 points in the first quarter. In the early goings of the second quarter, it seemed the Bulls would run away with the game as they were shooting 7-for-15 behind the three-point line and had a 39-27 lead. Thanks to some revved-up defense and accurate three-point shooting, the Bucks flipped the script on the Bulls, out-scoring them 23-12 to end the first half down by just one.
The Bucks kept the score close throughout most of the third quarter, never letting the Bulls get a lead larger than three points. That was until guard Ayo Donsunmu hit a half-court buzzer-beater to give Chicago an 82-78 lead heading into the final frame. It was then that Milwaukee made their move as they started the fourth on a 14-2 run, taking a 92-84 lead with 5:40 to play. It would seem that the Bucks would be able to coast this one out, but with a 15-7 run by the Bulls, spurred on by former Turkish League MVP Onuralp Bitim’s two three-pointers, Chicago tied the score at 99-99 with 1:01 to go. After a Bucks timeout, Beauchamp had a chance to give the Bucks the lead but missed the layup. Fortunately, former Gonzaga forward Drew Timme scooped up the offensive board and gave Milwaukee the lead with 29.1 seconds left. The final moments turned into the free throw game for the Bucks as Beauchamp knocked down all four free throws, sealing the win.
The Bucks dominated the interior all afternoon. Name a category for stats in the paint and the Bucks were all over the Bulls. Milwaukee outscored Chicago in the paint 54-38, out-rebounded them on the defensive glass 39-32, and had eight blocks to the Bulls four. Marques Bolden, Andre Jackson Jr., and Thansis Antetokounmpo each had two blocks for the Bucks on the afternoon.
Three-point shooting ignites the comeback. With the Bulls leading 43-35 with 6:19 left in the second quarter, the Bucks shooters made it rain from beyond the arc in quick succession. It started with Brook Lopez before newcomer Malik Beasley and Jae Crowder each hit two threes to help Milwaukee take a 50-45 lead with 2:10 left in the stanza. If the Bucks can get consistent three-point shooting from guys like Beasley and Crowder, they can become a very dangerous team come playoff time.
“We can get really hot, we had it in training camp with all the starters together and it was just so easy,” Beasley said. “I didn’t have to do much, none of our shots are forced, it just comes naturally and that’s what I think we’re excited about.”
The young guys showed up in big moments. In the second half, with most of the veteran players sitting on the bench, the Bucks youth showed out on both ends of the floor. As MarJon Beauchamp took over most of the primary ball-handler duties and added seven points of his 18 points and three assists in the second half. Griffin was also happy with the Yakima, Washington native’s performance on the defensive end as well.
“He was great on both sides of the ball, we’ve talked about what kind of identity we want on the defensive end and I thought he was really buying in,” Griffin said. “I think he can be a hell of a defender.”
Outside of Beauchamp, second-round pick Andre Jackson Jr. had a solid performance in his first NBA game by doing what he was drafted to do: play with energy on both sides of the ball. The former UConn Huskie was limited to just four points, but had four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, and was a +10 on the floor. Griffin raved about the rookie forward after the game:
“(Andre) plays within himself, very smart, if he’s open he’ll shoot it and if not, he doesn’t try to force shots,” Griffin said. “He attacks the rim, he attacks the boards and he just loves defense, it’s hard to find guys who love defense the way he does.”
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Prior to the game, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan talked about his relationship with Adrian Griffin and how happy he is that Griffin is an NBA head coach.
“I’m happy for Grif, we got a chance to work together in Oklahoma City (from 2016-2018), he’s a great guy (and) I think we had a great relationship,” Donovan said. “Really good coach and for me when you work with somebody and you see the time and effort somebody puts in on a daily basis get an opportunity like this is always makes you feel good.”
- It is the Bucks’ first win in the preseason in almost two years, with their last win coming against the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 10, 2021. Jordan Nwora was the leading scorer in that contest with 15 points while Giannis had eight points, nine rebounds, and six assists in 17 minutes.
- Outside of the rest of the Bucks stars, guard A.J. Green and second-round rookie Chris Livingston also sat out today’s game with a right calf strain and right ankle sprain respectively. But not to fear Bucks fans, as Griffin said that there is no concern for any long-term absence for either of them.
Full quote from Griffin:— Jackson Gross (@JGrossBucks) October 9, 2023
"They're progressing well, I think right now (it's about) getting their conditioning and hopefully soon, we'll see them back."
- The second half turned into a bit of a dunk fest for Milwaukee, with MarJon, Thansis, and Jackson all throwing down dunks with varying degrees of ferocity.
- Sunday marked just the ninth time in Jae Crowder’s 22 career games with the Bucks that he registered 20 or more minutes. In this one Crowder finished with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, 2-of-4 from the three-point line in 20 minutes of action. The last time came April 9 against the Toronto Raptors where he played 25 minutes in a 121-105 loss.
- Malik Beasley flashed some defensive instincts in the first half, picking off two bad passes by the Bulls and scoring on both of them. Beasley talked after the game about taking on a bigger defensive role, especially with Jrue Holiday no longer on the team, “I got to fill in the role of Jrue’s defensive presence, so just making sure I’m talking and defending.”
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo had himself quite a game off the bench, putting up 14 points, five rebounds, two blocks, and an assist. Those stats got him named as player of the game (via the Bucks’ Ywitter page). He tied a career-high with those two blocks and hasn’t done that since April 1, 2022, against the Los Angeles Clippers.
- TyTy Washington scored his first basket at the 10:42 mark of the third quarter and finished the game with six points. The former Houston Rockets guard also looked good distributing the ball as he put up a career-high of seven assists while committing just one turnover. Washington will be someone to watch for the third point guard spot behind Lillard and Cam Payne.
Tyty’s first bucket as a buck pic.twitter.com/NPxvvCPnc5— Wisconsin Herd (@WisconsinHerd) October 8, 2023
- Welcome back to NBA basketball everyone!