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Bulls-Bucks battle for second time in as many weeks

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second stab at Greek Freak

NBA: Preseason-Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls (10-22) at Milwaukee Bucks (17-14)

7 p.m., NBC Sports Network

Injury Report:

Giannis Antetokounmpo is probable for the game tonight after missing a game against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 23 with a knee injury. Milwaukee head coach Jason Kidd said that sitting him out was a precautionary move and there’s no long-term concern about the health of the Greek Freak’s knee.

Preview:

This season was supposed to be the beginning of the rise of the Bucks.

After securing the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference last season behind the play of NBA Most Improved Player Antetokounmpo and Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, this was the year that the Bucks were theoretically supposed to transition from fringe playoff contenders to a top four team in the Eastern Conference. Losing Jabari Parker to an ACL injury last February didn’t help matters for this season.

Unfortunately, that storyline hasn’t materialized as the Bucks envisioned it. Despite Antetokounmpo’s MVP start to the season (29.1 points on an absurd 54.2 percent from the field to go along with 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists) and an early-season acquisition of Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks have mostly flirted with the .500 mark all season.

The Bucks were one of the Bulls victims during that inexplicable seven-game winning streak, falling 115-109 in Milwaukee on Dec. 15 at the hands of a career-high 27 points from Bobby Portis. Fellow bash brother Nikola Mirotic poured in 22 points while Kris Dunn contributed 17 points and seven assists to the winning effort and Robin Lopez chipped in 18 points on an efficient 9-for-14 from the field.

Speaking of Lopez, the Bucks are in the market for a center after losing Greg Monroe as part of the Bledsoe trade. In February, the Bulls are going to be selling their players harder than a mom helping her girl scout daughter win first prize in the cookie sale contest, so is there a potential match between these two division rivals? Maybe. The snag with trading Lopez is he wouldn’t merely be a rental, since he’s under contract for $14.4 million in the 2018-2019 season.

The Bucks are a protected pick factory, owning picks in both rounds with some sort of protection attached for the next three years. Maybe the Bulls could absorb one of the Bucks bad contracts (Matthew Dellavedova, Mirza Teletovic) to try to pry a pick away from Milwaukee.

The Bulls are riding a two-game losing streak after mostly healthy Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics teams played like the top teams in the east that they are in their wins last week against the Bulls. Can the Bulls end this losing streak a bit faster than their last skid which lasted ten games?

Who knows, but when the Bulls travel to Milwaukee there’s always extra incentive to beat a division rival, especially after Milwaukee’s trolling antics earlier this season.