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Nikola Mirotic shines in final stretch and other Bulls-Bucks takeaways

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The big man came up with some clutch baskets when Chicago needed it most

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

After a 10-game losing streak, the Chicago Bulls have seemed to turn a positive corner. They have reeled off five straight wins with their most recent one coming against the Milwaukee Bucks, 115-109.

It was another win against a top team for the Bulls as they beat a division opponent with playoff aspirations. It was a tightly contested game and one which was going down to the wire. It was only a two-point lead for the Bulls with 2:46 remaining. Chicago had a chance to push it to a two-possession lead with a basket:

The play begins with Kris Dunn taking control of a fast break and immediately driving into the lane. As soon as he gets to right above the free-throw line, he’s surrounded by two defenders in Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the Greek Freak in front of him and Bledsoe right on his hip, there isn’t much Dunn can do in terms of creating his own shot.

Luckily for him, there is a wide open Nikola Mirotic on his right hand side. With Antetokounmpo choosing to stay in the paint and defend the drive by Dunn, it left Niko wide open at the 3-point line. All Dunn had to do was take a step to his right and fire a pass over to Mirotic. Khris Middleton was late rotating over and it was an easy 3-pointer for Niko.

Mirotic wasn’t done just yet. The very next possession he once again took the rock and scored another clutch three points for Chicago. Here he shows some good off the ball movement to get a basket:

Justin Holiday is the primary ballhandler on this play but finds him in a tough situation with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. Desperate, Holiday drives right baseline but there is no smart shot for him to take.

Meanwhile, Mirotic does a good job of moving without the basketball and finds himself right in between the Greek Freak and Rashad Vaughn. Holiday sees Niko and fires a pass right to him. But right as he catches it, he’s swarmed by both Bucks defenders. Instead of just catching the ball and standing there, Mirotic makes the smart move in trying to take it to the hoop as soon as he catches it. He does just that and splits the double-team by Vaughn and Antetokounmpo while getting fouled in the process. As soon as he gets fouled by Vaughn, Mirotic wisely just throws up a shot knowing there’s a chance he can make a ridiculous 3-point play. He pushes up a shot, which goes high off the glass and banks in. It gave Chicago a 111-107 lead and once again gave Chicago a two-possession advantage.

It was another amazing performance by Mirotic, who continues his mind-boggling run of great games. He dropped 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting along with grabbing eight rebounds. This is also the fourth straight game in which he has scored double digits and the third straight game in where he scored more than 20 points.

Chicago has now won five in a row and looks like a completely different team with the big man in the lineup. If anything, his trade value is rising with each passing game.

Poor 3-point shooting night

It wasn’t a great night to shoot the rock from deep for both teams. Chicago shot a respectable 36.4 percent from deep, though they only took 22 3-pointers and made eight of them. Milwaukee was much worse, hitting only 9-of-33 for a dismal percentage of 27.3.

This shouldn’t come as a huge shock as both Milwaukee (18th) and Chicago (27th) are in the bottom half of the league in terms of 3-point percentage. The Bulls did shoot slightly above their normal percentage (34.4 percent for the season), while the Bucks were well below theirs (35.8 percent for the season). It continues a recent trend of Bulls opponent misfiring from deep (28.8 percent during winnings streak).