Well, this was surprising. The Bucks, whom the Bulls have owned this season, came out and set the tone early in this one. In the first quarter, the Bucks dominated the Bulls on the glass 15 to 7 and 6 to 1 on the offensive end. In the early going, the Bucks seemed to be all over the floor, getting loose balls and just generally playing with a high degree of intensity. Despite the Bucks' hustle and effort, though, the Bulls lead 25 to 20 after one, because they shot 50% from the field to the Bucks' 38%. The Bucks hung in there and ultimately pulled out a win as the Bulls' sloppiness and inability to slow Michael Carter-Williams in the post cost them the game.
As much as the Bucks did some good stuff to win this one, and they definitely did, so I don't want to discredit them, the Bulls really blew this one. Chicago turned it over a whopping 22 times and missed 13 of their 37 free throws. In a close game, that's the type of stuff that will cost you. On top of those problems, the Bulls had an absolutely abysmal night from behind the three point line. The Bulls aren't a particularly talented group of guys at bombing from deep, so nights like this are going to happen sometimes, but they shot 19% (5 of 26) from behind the arc, including missing 3 wide open looks to tie the game late when it was 94-91. There were several airballs among their 19 miscues from range, as well. Just one of those nights.
My guy Nikola Mirotic had one of his worst games in a while, scoring just 6 points on 10 shots and going 0 for 5 from long distance. Jimmy Butler is the only guy I would say played a good game, as he logged 25 points on good efficiency, 7 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals, and a block in 40 minutes (c'mon, Thibs). Kirk Hinrich hurt his knee when he tackled Zaza Pachulia when the big man tried to screen him. Zaza fell on Kirk and Hinrich had to leave the game.
Kirk's injury lead to an entirely untenable situation in which Aaron Brooks played 37 freaking minutes. Aaron Brooks should never play 37 minutes. He especially should not play 37 minutes in a game in which the Bucks made a point of targeting him over and over again for post-ups from MCW. Brooks wasn't the only MCW post-up victim, but he was easily the most frequent target. Jason Kidd is a smart coach and if he sees a mismatch he likes, he's going to exploit it until you stop it. The Bulls never really developed an answer for MCW's post ups and his 21 points on 19 shots, 10 rebounds, and 2 assists really undersells how much damage he really did. He functioned as the hub of the Bucks' offense for much of the night and did so successfully, which is really shocking given how limited an offensive player he has been thus far in his career. But, because Thibs decided that riding with Aaron Brooks for most of the PG minutes tonight was the right call, it created a situation where MCW could be very effective.
I would have liked to have seen the Bulls try out Jimmy at PG to match up with MCW's size in the post on defense and to let #LetJimmyBeHarden on offense, but I suspect Thibs hasn't had Jimmy practice much at all in the PG role and we know how much Thibodeau values practice time. Still, it would have been nice for that to have at least been an option.
Anyway, I'm not taking much out of this one really. The Bulls missed a ton of open 3's, missed free throws, and got outworked on the glass and still had a chance to win. The Bucks are a scrappy team, at times, but should these two teams match up in the playoffs, the Bulls should have little trouble dispatching them.