While the Bulls were without Zach LaVine, Troy Brown Jr. and Lauri Markkanen (late scratch due to a non-COVID illness) against the Bucks on Friday night, they were handed an opportunity with Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting out due to an ankle injury. Another starter in Donte DiVincenzo was also out, and the visiting team had just lost to the lowly Rockets the night before. Chicago didn’t take advantage despite Milwaukee not playing all that well, instead suffering an ugly 108-98 loss that was painfully boring outside of one stretch in the second quarter.
The Bulls got off to another wretched start, shooting 6-of-23 in the first quarter en route to a 28-16 deficit. Bobby Portis nearly had a double-double in that opening quarter alone with nine points and eight rebounds, and he wound up with 16 points and 14 rebounds on the night.
Chicago’s struggles continued to start the second quarter as Milwaukee opened up a 40-21 lead. It looked like this game was destined to be a 30-point loss, but without Giannis, the Bucks started to stink it up themselves and the Bulls went on a big run to get themselves back in it. A 15-0 run powered by Daniel Theis made it a two-point game, but Milwaukee stemmed the tide to end the half to make it 52-44 at the break.
The second half was basically just never competitive without actually being a laugher. The Bucks held a double-digit lead almost the entire time, but they weren’t ever able to really pull away. The Bulls made a few small surges to keep things semi-interesting, only to see the deficit go back up again. Chicago got it to eight points with two and a half minutes to play, but no closer.
The Bulls got up to 38.5% shooting and 10-of-33 from 3-point range thanks to a hot fourth quarter, but they were at a truly woeful 32.9% overall and 6-of-26 on 3-pointers through three quarters. Nikola Vucevic and Coby White were a combined 6-of-28 in those first three quarters before rallying a bit in the fourth. White led the Bulls with 21 points, seven assists and just one turnover, but it’s hard to say he was all that effective given he shot poorly in the first three quarters and missed a bunch of bunnies, though he did have a few nice dimes and at least didn’t get embarrassed by Jrue Holiday.
This was an especially rough game for Vooch. He missed his first eight shots and wound up 7-of-27 for the night while shooting 1-of-9 from 3. His full box score still looks okay with 17 points, 15 rebounds and four assists, but he was soundly outplayed by Brook Lopez, who went for 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with four blocks, three assists and two rebounds. Lopez’s rim protection was critical all night, and he was a plus-30 in his 34 minutes.
Daniel Theis and Tomas Satoransky were the only other Bulls in double figures, with Theis getting a double-double of 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds. The big man finished a couple really nifty lobs, which was basically the only cool part of the night. Sato had 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting but had some really brutal turnovers, including getting ripped by Holiday at the end of the first half, leading to a big Bucks bucket as they built their lead back out.
Nobody else did anything of consequence. Thaddeus Young had 8/7/4 but shot 2-of-10 and missed a bunch of chippies. Patrick Williams and Garrett Temple were largely invisible offensively. Denzel Valentine had a few nice assists but shot just 2-of-9 and missed badly on a handful of good looks. Al-Farouq Aminu actually hit a couple shots in his first stint, including a 3, but it wasn’t exactly pretty.
Meanwhile, the Bucks weren’t pretty either, but they got all five starters in double figures. Khris Middleton matched Lopez with 22 points and hit a dagger 3-pointer after a brutal shooting night, finishing 8-of-24 from the field. Holiday had a strange game offensively with some sloppy ball handling and bad misses, but he was a plus-31 and was a big part of Milwaukee’s strong defensive effort. Bryn Forbes didn’t hit rim on three different shot attempts but managed to finish with 10 points and 13 boards.
This was truly a brutal game to watch. The Bulls were awful but the Bucks weren’t much better, making for a game that was rarely close and not exciting but never totally out of range. With the Wizards destroying the Cavaliers, Chicago is now three games back of the No. 10 seed with nine games to play.
A game in Atlanta against the Hawks is up next on Saturday night. Time is running out for the 26-37 Bulls.