The Bulls extended their winning streak to 5 games and are now 6-1 since that home loss to Brooklyn, one that's now looking like the low point of the season. The offense has really picked up in that time (perhaps not coincidentally with the lineup changes of Noah's absence and Niko Mirotic and Bobby Portis improving) and that continued in tonight's 117-106 win over the overmatched Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bulls started the game on a 10-0 run and never trailed, shooting 61% in the first half which included going 25/34 on two-pointers and 17/18 on shots in the paint. It was their highest scoring half of the season at 67 points.
The Bucks weren't blown away, trailing by only 6 at halftime as the Bulls defense wasn't very effective. But though Milwaukee cut it to 1 point late in the 3rd quarter, the Bulls' relative edge in offensive firepower had this one feeling like they were always in control. Granted, they have had bad losses before in this season, but it still felt that way and proved to be the case as they went on a quick run to get the lead back to double-digits for most of the fourth.
Derrick Rose returned after a three-game absence and was a bit of a mixed bag, shooting poorly from distance but showing decent in his attacks to get to 16 points. He also had 5 turnovers to his 6 assists. Jimmy Butler followed up his historic performance Sunday with another great game tonight, going for 32 points and tying a career-high with 10 assists. Milwaukee made the odd choice of using Jabari Parker on Butler a lot, and that backfired.
The perimeter defense from the Bulls starting guards and the team was what was leaving a lot to be desired, as their Bucks counterparts (Williams and Middleton) both showed themselves well. But the Bucks really struggled scoring inside, personified by Greg Monroe's 5-18 shooting performance and a lot of point-blank misses from him and other Bucks bigs. Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson not only stood tall defensively but had great shooting nights as well, Pau second to only Butler with his 26 points.
The Bulls also murdered Milwaukee on the offensive glass, with a nearly 47% Offensive Rebound rate (they gave up over 36% which isn't great, but...) [Update: totally calculated this wrong, Bulls actually got waxed giving up 31% ORR and only grabbing 21% of theirs] and had 10 blocks led by Taj's 6.
All of the starters reached double-figures in scoring, the 4 mentioned plus Nikola Mirotic who's averaged 16 over his last three games.
And the Bulls as a team were perfect from the FT line going 20-20, which is pretty neat. If they do a little better than the 5-20 line from three point range this is a total blowout. Instead it was a merely comfortable win that had a lot of high-paced offense against a team with serious defensive issues. The Bucks entered this game as the worst defense in the league.