Considering how bad the Bulls had been in their previous games on national TV heading into Friday night’s ESPN affair against the defending champion Bucks (somehow the first matchup of the season), I just wanted to see them put forth a strong effort and at least compete. They did just that, but that doesn’t mean the 94-90 loss to the Bucks isn’t a frustrating one.
This game was right there for the taking for the Bulls. They led by four points at several points early in the fourth quarter and never quit down the stretch even when it looked like the Bucks were going to run away with it. The visitors even had the ball down just two with around 40 seconds to play.
Then this mess happened:
No two-for-one and an out-of-rhythm DeMar DeRozan 3 over Giannis Antetokounmpo was certainly not the best look there, especially since Nikola Vucevic had a smaller player in Jrue Holiday on him in the post. The Bulls needed to do better on this play, but they didn’t, and the final possession fittingly featured three consecutive misses to close out the loss.
The Bulls’ shooting was simply horrendous all night long, as they badly missed Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball in this one. They shot 36.5% from the field and an unfathomable 7-of-38 from 3-point range, though the Bucks were barely better at 38.6% shooting overall and 6-of-31 from deep. This has to be right there for the worst collective 3-point shooting game of the season, with both teams missing a plethora of good looks.
The Coby White-Ayo Dosunmu duo was especially awful after all the deserved praise heaped on them for their recent performances. White shot 3-of-15 from the field and a shocking 0-of-9 from 3-point range. Ayo was 2-of-9 from the field and 1-of-5 from deep, and the rookie was noticeably gun-shy on a number of open opportunities. This was just a bad night for White and a learning experience for Ayo, and their struggles even had a lot of people calling for more Matt Thomas down the stretch because he was basically the only guy who could hit a 3 all night. Thomas had 11 points and a trio of triples off the bench, and he was just one of three Bulls in double figures for this game.
DeRozan did the brunt of the work on offense, going for 35 points on 9-of-18 shooting and a ridiculous 17-of-18 from the charity stripe. He got the benefit of the doubt on a number of jumpers, leaving Bucks player after Bucks player incredulous with the officiating. It’s a shame DeRozan botched that last 3-pointer, because he deserved a win.
Vucevic was the other Bull in double figures. He had a solid stat line with 19 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks (one was REALLY nasty), a steal and some respectable efforts against Giannis, but he shot just 7-of-17 from the field and 2-of-7 from 3-point range. He took a few really bad fadeaway mid-range shots in the fourth quarter and then wasn’t aggressive going at Holiday on that crucial possession. On a night without LaVine and Lonzo and with the Bulls not shooting well from 3, they really could have used a vintage Vooch game. He battled hard, but he just seems incapable of stringing together big-time offensive performances.
The Bulls did get a nice effort from Tyler Cook, who got the start as Billy Donovan tried to go with a bit more size against Giannis and Co. Cook played his ass off and had several impressive stops against Giannis, so kudos to him for that. Alex Caruso also had an awesome defensive game and had a really impressive tie-up of Giannis, though he did have his shooting struggles by going only 3-of-11 overall and 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
Caruso was lucky to leave this game without an injury, because he was taken down by noted jackwagon Grayson Allen on a dirty play that got him tossed from the game:
Grayson Allen draws a flagrant 2 for a HARD foul on Alex Caruso pic.twitter.com/NjCJEzo7zu— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) January 22, 2022
Donovan wasn’t having it in his postgame:
Here is Billy Donovan’s full answer when asked about Grayson Allen’s flagrant-2 foul on Alex Caruso and ejection.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 22, 2022
It should be noted this is very uncharacteristic of Donovan to single out a player like this. pic.twitter.com/70UZFSMi85
Good for Billy for sticking up for his guy. Unfortunately, Caruso missed both free throws and Troy Brown Jr. missed an open 3, giving the Bulls zero points on that possession.
To sum this one up, this isn’t a bad loss given the guys missing, but it’s a frustrating one given how the game played out. The Bucks stunk it up in this game as well, with Giannis not playing his best game despite going for 30/12/3 (yeah, this dude is ridiculous). He let the Bulls off the hook on a number of occasions with his shot selection, and Milwaukee also couldn’t hit any 3s. The Bucks unsurprisingly dominated in points in the paint (42-20) and second chance points (19-6), and that was just enough to overcome their own shooting woes.
The 28-16 Bulls are now out of first place in the East for the first time in 2022. The road trip continues on Sunday in Orlando against the lowly Magic.