Bulls (6-7) 92, Bucks 93 (7-5)
The Bulls got off to a bit of a slow start tonight, allowing the Bucks to grab an early 9-4 lead. Insert "this is the NBA and leads don't matter" verbiage here, but when the first quarter ended the Bulls were up 26-19. Powered by 16 combined points from Hinrich and Hamilton, the Bulls were able to jump out to a lead despite shooting poorly. The Bulls grabbed 6 ORB in the first quarter and into the early stages of the second--one from each of the starters save Hinrich and a pair from Butler-- to mitigate the relatively cold start from the field.
However, on the not so bright side the Bucks were doing work on the offensive glass themselves; 15 minutes into the game, they had 7 ORB.They came in averaging just over 11 offensive boards per game.
As the second quarter went along, the Bulls D began to tighten quite a bit. The Bucks had a hard time getting through on the dribble, resulting in some bad shots and turnovers that the Bulls converted into points (e.g. the kickout to Rip off the Milwaukee turnover for an easy breakaway layup).
As expected, Boozer didn't come out with the same shooting touch he had on Saturday, starting 3/9 from the field through almost two quarters of play. He was able to contribute in other ways, with 3 boards, an assist and a steal.
Monta Ellis in particular was pressured and harried on the perimeter throughout the first half, and Brandon Jennings didn't fare much better. Combined, the tandem shot 5-13 in the first half, good for just 11 of Milwaukee's 40 first half points.
Halftime Stats (Bulls 50, Bucks 40)Bucks:
Team PPP (points per possession)--0.86
- Ellis: 3-7, 7 points, 2 assists
- Jennings: 2-6, 3 assists, 4 points
- Henson: 5-8, 11 points
- Hamilton: 7-10, 17 points
- Hinrich: 2-5 (6-7 FTM-A), 10 points, 3 assists
- Boozer: 3-9, 7 points, 5 rebounds
The Bulls came out firing in the second half, scoring 10 points in the first three minutes, forcing Scott Skiles to call a timeout. Boozer hit two mid-range jumpers and a bunny to help the Bulls go up 60-44. It really became like your average game at the YMCA for a while, with Boozer looking like Hakeem Olajuwon in the post and various other Bulls getting completely uncontested looks at the basket. Although I joked in the preview and earlier in this very post about Boozer not being able to duplicate Saturday's 10-15 shooting mark, he found himself at 8-15 in the third quarter after a 3-9 start.
The Bucks offense was equally as dysfunctional. They couldn't throw it into Lake Michigan (which, to be fair, is kind of hard to do from the United Center unless you're Dayan Viciedo or something), and Ellis didn't manage to get much penetration to the basket at all.
All the while, the threes kept falling, even from guys like Deng and Hinrich. When the Chicago Bulls are 5-9 from three at any point in a game against you, things are probably not going well for you. Indeed, things were not going well at all for the Bucks, who lost the third quarter by a score of 30-21 (which would have been worse if not for a buzzer beating two from Ekpe Udoh).
The Bulls shot 59% from the field in the third. That was a good quarter, fine quarter. Let's build a statue to that quarter (or maybe just write 59% on a piece of paper and tape it somewhere on the outside of the UC).
With a 19-point lead heading into the 4th, the Bulls simply needed to close out. Unfortunately, this is the NBA, and "closing out" is almost never easy.* Naturally, the Bucks cut the lead to 13 in only 1:11 of 4th quarter play, playing against a Bulls lineup featuring four starters.
After forcing Thibodeau to call a timeout at the aforementioned 10:49 mark, Thibs was forced to call another one less than a minute later after an Udrih trey cut the lead to 10; the Bulls had once led by 27 points. This is life as a watcher of the NBA. To say that the NBA is a mercurial game is an understatement.
And, just like that, it was a game once again, as if that seemingly insurmountable lead had never even existed. A Dunleavy trey made it 82 all with 6:45 to go; indeed, the Bulls got 2012 playoffs Grizzlies'd.
An Ilyasova and-1 with 1:37 to go put the Bucks in the lead, 91-90, for the first time since the Paleolithic Era. The Bulls scored to go up but went back down again after an Udoh bucket.
You think the worst has already been discussed? Well, the Bucks had the ball, running the clock all the way to its end before Udrih launched a three that begat a long rebound which the Bucks corraled up top. Ekpe Udoh was fouled and went on to miss both free throws. Good news everyone!
Of course, the Bulls failed to grab the rebound on the second miss. Ilyasova grabbed it under the basket and had it knocked from his hands out of bounds. by Noah. After forcing a timeout on the inbounds, Hinrich came behind Udoh and deflected Dunleavy's inbound pass, eventually leading to Bulls possession of the ball.
The Bulls, down 92-93, had 7.5 seconds with which to work. The inbound pass went to Rip, who received it on the left side. He held, wasting a couple seconds to gather himself. He drove to the elbow and attempted a jumper falling away from the basket. It clanked off, and the final tenths ticked off the click as the ball flew out of bounds, as if to get away from the ubiquitous stench that had dominated the UC floor for the 4th quarter.
The Bulls had a 27-point lead in the third quarter and lost. I'll say it again: the Bulls got 2012 Clippers-Grizzlies Game 1'd. It is not a good feeling.
The Bulls fall to 6-7, and fail to capture a 10th straight win against the Bucks. I mean, what else is there to say? There were some good efforts tonight that will not be remembered (namely from Boozer in the third quarter and Rip throughout), but this was simply a catastrophic ending to what was otherwise an excellent game through at least two and a half quarters.
So, no bullets tonight. What's the point? I'd start writing them and about two seconds before hitting the publish button I'm sure my computer would crash, taking all of that work with it.
*I was writing this post during the game, so I didn't know the final result when I wrote that sentence. Whenever someone wants to refute the notion that it's worth watching an NBA game before the final five minutes, just hold up a nonsensical game like this and laugh.