The impossible-to-predict Bulls season continued with an easy blowout victory in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon. After a slow start, the entire starting lineup scored in double figures to lead the way to a comfortable 109-94 win. Nikola Mirotic tied a season-high with 28 points on lights out shooting to keep the Bulls alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Niko is straight tonight. He's got 16 on 7-8 FGs in the first half alone: pic.twitter.com/yJBtdzaosT— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 26, 2017
Mirotic’s big game continued his recent stretch of great play. He shot a scorching 11/14 from the field and 6/9 from distance and added eight rebounds. It was Niko’s third straight game with at least 15 points and four threes as the soon-to-be restricted free agent is finishing the season red-hot for the second straight year. Already a highly inconsistent player, Mirotic’s recent play has to be befuddling for the decision-making challenged front office:
Mirotic has to be maddening if you're management. This is 3rd straight season he has closed very well after inconsistencies throughout.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) March 26, 2017
Jimmy Butler was excellent today, tallying a new career-high with 14 assists. Point Jimmy has been extremely effective when Butler is surrounded by capable shooters and cutters. He added an efficient 20 points on 8/13 from the field as Milwaukee had no answer to Butler’s probing and prowling in the lane. Jimmy’s averaging 26.4 points and 10 assists over the last five games, clearly doing his best to will Chicago into the postseason.
Butler did a good job slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo after a quick start from the Greak Freek. While he still finished with 22 points on 14 shots, the Bulls forced Giannis away from his patented forays to the rim for easy dunks in the second half. Jimmy’s constant activity offensively combined with the Bulls excellent team passing helped take Antetokounmpo’s unbelievable athleticism out of the game. He didn’t record a steal or a block.
The Bucks took an early lead behind Giannis’s dunks and some nice second-unit post work from Greg Monroe. The Bulls looked to be in some trouble with Joffrey Lauvergne again playing the backup center role, but the Bucks weren’t able to slow the Bulls down enough offensively to take advantage.
Rajon Rondo was excellent, nearly notching a triple double with 18 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists. He and Butler found a great balance controlling the offense and ensuring the ball never stopped moving. When Rondo is willing to be part of an attack and not dominate it, his passing can still be quite valuable. The ball consistently found the right player today and Rondo converted on 8/11 field goals to do more than his share.
Paul Zipser and Robin Lopez rounded out the strong afternoon for the starters. Zipser turned in 10 points and five boards in 29 solid minutes after picking up two quick fouls early in the first. Lopez was hot, supplying 18 points on 9/13 shooting. When Rondo is making layups, the Bulls current starting lineup has enough shooting to create solid offense.
Today though, the Bulls caught fire and the Bucks were never able to slow them down. With just eight games to play, the Bulls are only one back of the Miami Heat for a playoff spot. Like it or not, this season looks to be coming down to the wire.