The Bulls got some bad news before Monday night's game against the Bucks, as it was revealed that Jimmy Butler would sit out due to some swelling in the troublesome left knee that just kept him out nearly a month. The Bulls also lost Bobby Portis (eye) and Aaron Brooks (knee) in this one, but they used a late surge to finally put away a sloppy 100-90 victory in which Pau Gasol recorded his second triple-double of the year. Yes, that means that streak of giving up 100 points is finally over.
It seemed pretty obvious from the start that the Bulls were going to hold the Bucks under 100, as Milwaukee's half-court offense was truly awful most of the night. Chicago's game plan was clearly to pack the paint against a team that lacks shooters, and while Jerryd Bayless did some damage outside and both Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo scored on some nice drives, the Bulls generally did a nice job of forcing tough shots. Gasol and Taj Gibson also protected the rim admirably, combining for eight blocks and several key swats late.
The Bulls' offense was humming early, with Gasol again doing a lot of damage as an initiator from the high post. Chicago burned Milwaukee on back cuts time and time again, and Pau also did a nice job finding open three-point shooters throughout the game (they shot 10-of-25 from deep). The Bulls racked up a season-high 35 assists on 39 made baskets (HOIBALL), with Gasol notching 13 of those and both E'Twaun Moore and Derrick Rose picking up seven.
Given how terrible the Bucks looked offensively, this game appeared to be on the verge of a blowout several times, but the Bulls' own carelessness with the ball wouldn't allow that. Rose had six of Chicago's 18 turnovers, and those 18 giveaways turned into 23 Milwaukee points. The Bulls were also lucky that their own poor defensive rebounding didn't hurt them, as the Bucks turned 18 offensive rebounds into just five second chance points.
While the Bulls were in control throughout, their lead got down to just two points with just under five minutes to go. The Bucks blew several chances to tie/take the lead, and Moore and Mike Dunleavy helped put the daggers in with three-pointers. Dunleavy played an excellent overall game, scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 4-of-6 from three.
While Rose's six turnovers were no good, he did lead the Bulls with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting. It was interesting to see him really looking for his three-point shot, as he went 2-of-6 after going 2-of-4 in the last game. Him shooting more threes isn't a huge deal if he has more confidence and is knocking them down at a solid rate, but let's just hope he doesn't fall too in love with them if he's not hitting.
Finally, the power-forward duo of Gibson and Nikola Mirotic both did nice things. I mentioned Gibson's rim protection, and he also did some nice work down low against the skinny Antetokounmpo. Mirotic was the only positive contributor off the bench with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes, so that was nice to see, even if he also had some own moments of slop.
Overall, this wasn't the prettiest win, but it was a good one to get given the injury issues. The Bulls get a couple days to heal up before facing the mighty Spurs on Thursday in San Antonio, where they haven't lost yet this year.