Bulls drop 3rd straight in 106-101 loss to Bucks

The Bulls Tuesday battled this time to the final seconds, but it still ended with a loss, 106-101 to the Milwaukee Bucks.

It was the Bulls third consecutive loss as they fell to 22-15. The Bucks are 16-24.

The Bulls had an early eight-point lead in the fourth quarter. But Khris Middleton had a big corner three and a tough jumper over Jimmy Butler to provide enough late to hold off the Bulls. Butler and Aaron Brooks each missed a free throw late and Butler had a tough reverse come up short in the last seconds.

The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 30 points and Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell each with 17. Pau Gasol had 10 points and 14 rebounds. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 29 for Milwaukee with five Bucks in double figures.

The Bulls didn’t make any changes in the lineup, but they did in attitude. The guards were coming back to rebound, the big men were helping and recovering, active and energetic; drivers were being challenged at the rim and rebounds were turned into outlet passes ahead instead of being dribbled lazily out of the backcourt. The result was a 17-6 Bulls start. Coach Fred Hoiberg did make a change with the reserves going with Kirk Hinrich for defense as the first guard off the bench and also going back to Hinrich when the Bucks went at Doug McDermott.

Butler and Rose each had seven first quarter points as the Bulls led 29-20 on 57 percent shooting and 15-9 on the boards. The Bucks shot 32 percent. The Bucks came back in the second quarter behind Antetokounmpo, who scored 11 straight Bucks points as the Bulls searched for a defensive answer. He was too quick for Bobby Portis and Joakim Noah and too long for Taj Gibson, though Gibson finally had some success with physical play. In that stretch the Bucks pulled within 37-35. But the Bulls play continued to be aggressive despite the setback. They got a boost from Tony Snell with 12 first quarter points, the last two after his offensive rebound and short jump shot. The Bulls then got a pair of free throws from Butler on a possession in which they had three offensive rebounds, which gave them 14 in the first half in a 35-19 rebounding margin. Still, the Bucks trailed just 51-46 at halftime as the Bulls were six of 24 in the second quarter, though many attempted second and third shots.

The Bucks also had 18 points from turnovers to four for the Bulls. Gasol had just two first quarter points, but his plus-14, the team’s biggest, demonstrated his impact on the boards and with three first half blocks. The Bucks scored on their first five possessions of the second half behind mostly Antetokounmpo to tie the game at 56 with 9:26 remaining. But the Bulls got a setback as Rose went out with left patella tendinitis with his return questionable. The Bulls then went cold, throwing the ball away three times in four possessions as the Bucks went ahead 67-59 with 6:06 left in the third quarter.

But the Bulls gathered themselves with Butler and Aaron Brooks making threes and Gasol with some clever inside play to ease ahead 77-74 heading into the fourth quarter. The Bulls started the fourth fast behind a pair of Brooks scores and then a further boost from an aggressive Snell looking for his shot. That gave the Bulls an 89-81 lead. But the Bulls could not stop the Antetokounmpo express running at them as Milwaukee got back within 91-87 midway through the fourth quarter. The Bucks then tied it with 3:25 left as Rose did return to the game.