Even with Khris Middleton out, the Bulls had a really tough task ahead of them in Milwaukee against the defending champion Bucks on Tuesday night. With the Bulls playing the second of a back-to-back against a fresh Bucks team that hadn’t played since Saturday, there was a major rest disadvantage for the visitors. Still, it would have been nice to at least see a competitive game to follow up the outstanding performance against the Raptors.
Instead, the Bulls laid another massive egg against an elite team, getting absolutely worked in an ugly loss. The Bucks led by as many as 26 points in the first half and 35 for the game before settling on a 126-98 final score. Chicago is now 0-16 against the top three in each conference.
The Bulls were competitive for the first eight-plus minutes of the game, with a red-hot Nikola Vucevic buoying the offense (he actually hit three 3s in the first quarter) and the game tied at 20-20 heading into a Bucks timeout. The game then totally went to shit once the reserve units came in, with Milwaukee closing the quarter on a 13-0 run. Things totally spiraled out of control in the second quarter as the margin got to 26 before the Bulls ended the half on a 10-0 thanks to Zach LaVine and some blatant Bucks messing around.
The Bulls got to as close as 10 early in the third quarter, but then the Bucks found their groove again and blew them out of the water. Giannis Antetokounmpo murdered the Bulls (he stuffed Tristan Thompson in the basket and had several other angry dunks) and then Jrue Holiday danced all over their grave, cooking them over and over again in the fourth quarter as the game really got out of hand.
There is almost nothing worth taking from this game. The Bucks destroyed the Bulls in just about every single category (except turnovers), shooting 61.0% from the field and 12-of-28 from 3-point range as they toyed with a hapless Chicago defense. Milwaukee had 58 points in the paint to just 34 and won the rebounding battle 53-33. Holiday had 27 points and seven assists, while Giannis had 25 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and a steal while notching a game-best plus-28. Hey, at least the Bulls forced him to turn it over nine times?
All five Bucks starters scored in double figures, and two more reached double digits off the bench. Vucevic, LaVine and DeMar DeRozan all went over 20 points but were the only Bulls in double figures. Vooch did actually show up for this one, so, uh, good for him I guess. DeRozan was mostly awful until he got hot in garbage time. LaVine was ... fine.
What was not fine was the bench, which was just a total train wreck. Ayo Dosunmu was a minus-35. Coby White shot 2-of-10 from 3 and 1-of-6 from 3. He’s 2-of-19 from 3 against the Bucks this season. Tristan Thompson was useless (where’s DJJ?) and got into a scrap with Serge Ibaka late in the game. Patrick Williams had a mostly nondescript game with six points on 2-of-6 shooting, four rebounds, one assist and one steal, though he at least had a handful decent defensive plays against Giannis.
There was some complaining about the officiating throughout the broadcast, and Billy Donovan pointed out how there were only two defensive fouls called on the Bucks in 24 minutes. There was definitely some shoddy officiating early as the refs gave Milwaukee a bit of home cooking, but let’s be real, it didn’t have an impact on the outcome of this game. And while the Bulls didn’t get the benefit of the doubt on a few drives, plus a no-call on a potential Giannis offensive foul that would have given him two in the first quarter, it’s not like they deserved a whole lot of whistles given the amount of jumpers. The Bucks were the aggressors in this game, and they took it to Chicago.
At this point, it’s clear the Bulls simply can’t hang against great teams, and they’re an abomination on the road as they dropped to 16-20 away from the United Center. Good thing this was the start of a five-game road trip, but there are some very winnable games on it, starting with Thursday against the Pelicans. Beating the Raptors gave them a little breathing room in the standings when it comes to staying in the top six, but the Bulls have to regroup and pick up a few wins on this trip in order to avoid a collapse.