The Bulls put in a good shift on Thursday night in Milwaukee, where they held the Bucks to just 18.2% (6-33) from the 3 point line, but unfortunately fell short down the stretch as Milwaukee pulled away in the final minutes.
Was Thursday's Bulls 124-115 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks just something old, a failure to close trailing by a basket with two minutes left? Or the start of something new with a fourth quarter lineup that featured emerging rookie Coby White directing a Bulls offense that was 18 of 43 on threes and combined with Zach LaVine for 51 points?
We thought that one/two punch was going to be LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, and perhaps it still could be. Big Three?
White off the bench led the Bulls with 26 points, making six of 13 threes and along with LaVine were the only Bulls players to attempt double figures in shots even as the Bucks pressured White into a two of 12 second half. But the high scoring duo along with the gritty defensive play of Ryan Arcidiacono, who defended Giannis Antetokounmpo down the stretch, and Kris Dunn helped put the Bulls in position to knock off the Eastern power by cutting a double digit Bucks fourth quarter lead to three with two minutes remaining.
The Bucks seemed to be trying to shake the Bulls like a pesky child hanging onto their leg. There were 22 lead changes and ties in the game. But it wasn't until Eric Bledsoe rebounded an Antetokounmpo fading jumper with 1:33 left for a score and followed that after a LaVine miss with a driving score that the Bulls fell away.
Though not too far as Bledsoe appeared to violate one of those unwritten rules by attempting to dunk at the end of the game with the teams basically walking off the court, and then hanging on the rim.
"Those are things you don't do at the end of games out of common courtesy," said Thaddeus Young, who seemed to mention something about bovine feces. "We'll move on. We play them in four or five days (Monday). We just have to be ready to get a win."
The Lake Michigan cage match, it's back!
Not quite yet as the Bulls don't have their Giannis. But White with 19 first half points and five of eight threes on the way to a 66-65 Bulls halftime lead may be proving not too young.
"We fought back," said White. "A couple of plays we didn't get the rebound, but we took a step in the right direction. I just didn't make shots in the second half like I did in the first."
White certainly is making an impression not only with his confidence, but on opponents as the Bucks practically face guarded him after the half. Respect also is when you become the target.
Coby White Hits 5 First Half 3s Against the Bucks
"We got to a three with 1:45 left," noted Bulls coach Jim Boylen. "We missed a defensive rebound and who knows what happens if we get that ball and tie. I thought the guys competed, forced them into 22 turnovers; we did some good things. Disappointed we lost, but I like the opportunities we had. A bucket here, a bucket there, things change a little bit. Guys were flying around and playing their (butts) off, a hell of a game."
The lament of the loser as the Bulls dropped to 4-8?
Perhaps as the Bucks won a seventh straight over the Bulls and moved to 8-3. Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 16 rebounds and Bledsoe added 31 points as the Bulls broke down inside. The Bucks, just six of 33 on threes, adjusted and battered the Bulls at the basket for a 70-32 margin on inside points. Wendell Carter Jr. with 14 points and six rebounds fouled out against the bigger Bucks with 9:13 left in the game.
Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with eight rebounds, but had just 11 points on two of nine shooting. Young also had 11 points and Tomas Satoransky 10. The Bulls responded with late game three and four-guard lineups that not only rescued them from trailing by 11 to start the fourth quarter, but kept them in position in the last minutes.
Hey, it's something.
"I felt we really grew at a moment in the third where in previous games we had gotten stagnant, low energy offensively while they were making their run," said Boylen. "I thought we got knocked down and got back in the game and we hadn't been doing a good job of that."
That fourth quarter comeback began with White running point guard and feeding a lob dunk score to Carter, driving and getting fouled and scoring on a runner. And the Bulls were back in the game. Arcidiacono had seven points and wasn't credited with a steal, but he had an extraordinary three-minute stretch in the fourth when the Bucks again couldn't shake the Bulls.
He passed to White and Dunn for threes, won a jump ball from Antetokounmpo after tying him up on a drive, forced George Hill into a turnover, forced Donte DiVincenzo into a turnover and drew an offensive foul on Sterling Brown. It all enabled the Bulls to get within 104-100 with seven minutes left. Arcidiacono then made a three when the Bucks took a 108-102 lead and was the defensive guard assigned to Antetokounmpo the three minutes.
Next, Arch dunks on Rudy Gobert!
"That bench group has been good," said Boylen. "They bring energy and move the ball. Dunn and Arch have a good feel for Coby. I thought (Arcidiacono) did a great job on (Giannis). Sometimes Giannis struggles with guys that are small and get underneath him; we saw that."
The Bulls reserves outscored the Bucks 49-23.
"We were defending, we were scrapping," said Arcidiacono. "We're giving up size, so we have to find a way to scrap rebounds. Myself and KD, we try to be physical on the defensive end and get after people and give Coby that freedom on the offensive end the way he can get hot. We try to muck up the game.
"We talked about being physical with him (Antetokounmpo)," said Arcidiacono. "I thought I did a decent job. He missed a tough two, but we weren't able to get that (Bledsoe) rebound. I know I'm giving up a ton of size, athleticism, basically everything. Me and Shaq (Harrison) joke we are the utility players. Any assignment we'll take in stride. I don't know if he felt me, but I tried."
It was a trying night for the Bulls despite that exciting first half. The Bucks are one of the league's best three-point teams, but the Bulls scrambled them off the line like the Bucks had egg on their faces, forcing shots and extra passes in vain.
"You try to take away the rim and try to take away threes," said Boylen. "I thought we did a good job with the three pointers; we didn't do a good job at the rim."
The experienced Bucks buckled down in the third quarter, Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe pounding away inside with drives, outscoring the Bulls on their own. It was time for the Bulls to fade to a blowout. But with White and Arcidiacono the only Bulls to play the entire fourth quarter, the Bulls bucked their trend for much of this young season. Just one more defensive rebound and who knows?
"Stay the course," said Young. "I've been on teams like this before where we started under what we (should have been). But we picked it up throughout the course of the season and eventually made the playoffs. So we just have to continue to stay the course, believe in what we are doing. We are making strides and steps each and every day."