After the crushing loss in Game One, the Chicago Bulls responded with one of their best performances of the season.
On the road against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bulls went up by as much as 18, with the defending champs making it a close game in the fourth quarter but Chicago kept responding with big buckets.
DeMar DeRozan had another signature offensive scoring night as he dropped 41 points on 16 of 31 shooting from the field, capping it off by scoring a basket at the rim with 18.2 seconds left as the Bulls walked out of Milwaukee with a 114-110 victory, tying the series at one game apiece.
It was a chaotic sequence which included multiple offensive rebounds from the Bulls. Eventually, the ball landed in DeRozan’s hands with around 24 seconds left. Instead of waiting for Milwaukee to foul him he drove to the hoop, took contact from Giannis, and scored despite it.
You could tell just how much that meant to the Bulls as the entire bench ran to help pick him up as timeout was called.
Then Alex Caruso stepped up with another timely defense play, drawing an offensive foul on Giannis to turn Milwaukee over. It was emblematic of his night as Caruso was everywhere for Chicago and made big play after big play. He finished with just nine points but he had 10 assists, hit shots from downtown, and played expectational defense. Billy Donovan chose to have him guard Giannis down the stretch and it yielded some positive results. He added a block and was one of the players who grabbed an offensive rebound in the game clinching offensive sequence.
As a team, Chicago shot great from the field at 49.4 percent and more importantly, from three at 48 percent (12 of 25), a monumental improvement over the first game. If the Bulls want a chance at making this series a competitive one, they have to continue to stretch the floor and drill three-pointers.
Chicago turned the ball over 13 times, leading to 13 points for the Bucks. They had 25 assists on 44 makes. As per usual they shot near perfect from the line, missing just once.
Second to only DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic had an outstanding game and a redemption performance in his own right. He had 24 points and 13 rebounds, stretching the floor with his timely shooting. Vucevic went four of eight from three-point land including a timely shot with 2:30 left to keep the Bucks at bay.
Zach LaVine didn’t struggle with foul trouble in this game as he scored 20 points along with three assists. He deferred mostly to DeRozan in the fourth quarter as DeMar had the hot hand but it didn’t stop LaVine from getting involved. He also knocked down a much needed three to stop a Bucks run in the 4th. Patrick Williams had nine field goal attempts and finished with 10 points but he found other ways to make an impact. He grabbed nine rebounds and added three assists. For most of the game he was tasked with guarding Giannis and struggled to a degree. However, he was much needed for Chicago given his contributions on the boards.
The starters for the Bulls may have let them down in the series opener but they were relied upon heavily with much better results tonight. No Bulls bench player played more than 14 minutes in this game and the unit scored a combined 10 points. Donovan gave them a quick hook whenever the Bucks started to chip into their deficit.
As for Milwaukee, they got 33 points and 18 rebounds from Giannis and had all of their starters score double figures. Brook Lopez continues to kill the Bulls as he had 25 points and Jrue Holiday pitched in with 15. Khris Middleton had 18 points but left the game in the fourth quarter.
Middleton may be out the rest of this series as the initial diagnosis was a sprained MCL. Bobby Portis also left mid-game for the Bucks after suffering an eye injury.
This was a humongous victory for Chicago as getting a game on the road now gives them some hope going back home. They got monster performances from all of their key contributors and shot well from deep. This with what’s been a very good defense is the recipe for success for the Bulls if they want to make this a competitive series.
Game Three will be on Friday night in Chicago and you can guarantee the United Center atmosphere is going to be electric.