And you thought the Bulls’ win over the Pistons was ugly.
Of course, against a top-notch defensive team like the Bucks — currently ranked 5th in Defensive Rating (102.2) and 4th in Opponents PPG (92.6) — you pretty much have to expect ugly. In their last 12 games, they’ve allowed 100+ points only once. During that same stretch, they’ve scored 100+ points only once.
Milwaukee is a classic Scott Skiles team: They slow things down and put their opponents in the meat grinder. The paint gets clogged. Layup attempts are blocked or intimidated. Jump shots are harrassed. Heck, the Bucks rotate and run out so well that even open jump shots feel contested.
That said, Milwaukee was playing their second game of back-to-backs, on the road no less, and minus key players due to injuries (Brandon Jennings, Drew Gooden, Carlos Delfino) and suspension (Earl Boykins). Not surprisingly, their defense was slow to get going, and the Bulls blitzed them with a 27-point first quarter and led by 12.
However, the Bucks blitzed back during the second quarter. They turned up their D, started forcing turnovers, and began attacking the basket. Milwaukee attempted 15 free throws in that 12-minute stretch. The Bulls attempted only one measley fouls shot while committing seven turnovers. And just like that, Chicago’s 12-point lead became a one-point halftime deficit.
Fortunately, the Bucks may very well be the worst offensive team in the Association. They certainly are by the numbers, ranking dead last in both Offensive Rating (99.7) and PPG (90.3). And it so happens that the Bulls aren’t too shabby on the defensive end themselves, ranking 3rd in D-Rating (100.2) and 8th in Opponents PPG (94.6).
So after a 30-point second quarter — fueled primarily by Chicago’s turnovers — Milwaukee scored only 32 points in the second half and finished with a new season-low in field goal percentage (32.1). As the game wore on, the Bucks were doomed by their standard bad offense and a lack of fresh bodies. The Bulls used a 16-4 run in final minutes of the fourth quarter to put the Bucks out of their misery.
Offensively, the Bulls were a three-man show last night, getting 66 of their 90 points from Carlos Boozer (24 points, 10-for-16, 9 rebounds), Luol Deng (24 points, 9-for-15, 5 boards) and Derrick Rose (18 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds). Rose shot the ball poorly (7-for-17), but he consistently found the open man. Plus, he and Boozer spent much of the fourth quarter dissecting the Bucks with a pick and roll. That helped put the game away.
Said Boozington: “We just started to do the pick-and-roll, we stopped doing the rest of our stuff. We mixed it up through the course of the game, we realized that we had a good matchup with D-Rose and I on the pick-and-roll and we just kept going to it.”
Added Rose: “He is teaching me, he knows sometimes he doesn’t need to set the pick or he can slip if I just drive at his man and his man stays with me I can just bounce pass and he has his left hand. Everything is coming to us, but we’ve got to continue to do it.”
Even those the Boozer-Deng-Rose trio made the offensive headlines, Kurt Thomas was the team’s Defensive Player of the Game. His stats don’t really show it — 30 minutes, 7 rebounds, 4 fouls, 2 points, 1 blocked shot — but he did a real number on Andrew Bogut. Milwaukee’s big man scored only 4 points on 2-for-12 shooting.
For perspective, Bogut averaged 21.7 PPG on 51.8 percent shooting against the Bulls last season. Last night, he was only 2-for-9 at the rim and attempted only two foul shots.
Said Boozer: “Let me tell you, Kurt Thomas did a phenomenal job. That’s their go-to and they go to him quite a bit. Obviously Kurt played there last year so he know his moves, but Kurt did a great job on him and he basically took their best player out of the game by himself.”
And in the end, it’s another W in the standings, ugly or not.
Said Deng: “We did a good job in the fourth quarter. At the end of the day it is a win. Nobody is going to look at how you got it. We are starting to learn as a team that the most important thing is winning the game.”