Game Recap: Bucks 93, Bulls 92

The Good:
Rip Hamilton had a monster 30-point game, Kirk Hinrich finally broke out of his offensive slump with 17 points and 6 assists, and Carlos Boozer had a manly double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Overall, the Bulls played nearly flawless basketball for the first 33 minutes  and 11 seconds.

The Bad:
Chicago’s reserves got outscored by their Milwaukee counterparts by an astonishing 56-10.

The Ugly:
The Bulls choked away a 27-point lead in the final 14:49 and conjured nightmare flashbacks of the Vinny Del Negro era. Specifically: When the Bulls blew a 35-point lead against the Sacramento Kings back in 2009.

Here are a couple other ugly stats: The Bucks outscored the Bulls 30-12 in the fourth quarter to cap a 42-14 run to end the game.

The First Sign of Trouble:
Hinrich bounced in a three-pointer with 2:49 left in the third quarter to give the home team a should-have-been-insurmountable 78-51 lead.

Then the Bulls blinked. A blinked again. Then they slammed their eyes shut and huddled in a corner while Milwaukee’s second unit slapped them senseless.

Milwaukee closed the quarter on a 12-2 run to pull to within 17. During that run, the Bulls looked listless and out of sync, committing three turnovers (two on offensive charges) and repeatedly failing to cover open shooters.

Chicago’s Fourth Quarter Offense:
Here’s a summary of the Bulls’ offensive possessions during the final 12 minutes. Makes are in bold.

Joakim Noah missed layup (blocked by Ekpe Udoh)
Carlos Boozer missed 15-footer
Boozer turnover (Ersan Ilyasova steals)
Rip Hamilton missed 11-footer
Hamilton turnover (Udoh steals)
Hamilton missed 2-footer
Noah offensive rebound / missed tip shot
Hamilton made 20-footer
Boozer missed 15-footer
Hamilton missed 14-footer
Hinrich made layup
Hamilton 2-for-2 from the free throw line
Noah missed hook shot (blocked by Udoh)
Boozer offensive rebound
Boozer missed layup (blocked by Ilyasova)
Joakim Noah offensive rebound
Hinrich missed 23-footer
Hamilton missed 7-footer
Boozer offensive rebound
Boozer made 13-footer
Luol Deng missed 24-footer
Hinrich 2-for-2 from the free throw line
Hamilton made 7-footer
Hamilton missed 9-footer (blocked by Udoh)
Noah offensive rebound
Noah missed 2-footer (blocked by Udoh)
Hamilton missed 10-footer

Some things to note:

The Bulls had five shots blocked by the Bucks: four by Udoh and one by Ilyasova. Coming into the game, Udoh had 8 total blocks on the season and Ilyasova had 3.

When a team goes as cold as the Bulls went during the fourth quarter, you might assume they were bailing out and taking too many long jump shots. Not so. The Bulls attempted 10 shots from 10 feet or closer. They took an additional five shots from 11-15 feet. The Bulls tried only three shots beyond 15 feet: a three-point attempt each by Hinrich and Deng and a 20-footer by Hamilton.

Milwaukee’s Fourth Quarter Offense:
Here’s a summary of the Bulls’ offensive possessions during the final 12 minutes. Misses are in bold.

Udoh missed 10-footer
Doron Lamb made layup
Ilyasova made layup
Beno Udrih made 26-footer
Lamb made 12-footer
Udoh made layup
Lamb made 15-footer
Ilyasova made 27-footer
Ilyasova missed 26-footer
Udoh offensive rebound
Mike Dunleavy made 24-footer
Udrih missed 25-footer
Bucks team offensive rebound
Udoh missed 12-footer
Udrih made 21-footer
Ilyasova made 20-footer
Ilyasova missed 23-footer
Udoh missed layup
Ilyasova made 18-footer
Ilyasova made layup and the foul
Ilyasova 1-for-1 from the free throw line
Udoh made layup
Udrih missed 25-footer
Udoh offensive rebound
Udrih 0-for-2 from the free throw line
Ilyasova offensive rebound
Dunleavy turnover

Some things to note:

The Bucks hit five layups in the final quarter despite entering the game ranked 23rd in field goal percentage at the rim. They also knocked down four threes despite being ranked 26th in three-point percentage.

Ilyasova scored a team-high 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting. During the fourth quarter, he scorched the Bulls with 12 points on three long jumpers, two layups and a made free throw. Heading into the game, Ilyasova was averaging 6.3 points on 31.9 percent shooting and had a “Next Stop D-League” Player Efficiency Rating of 6.6. And he had a dismal offensive rating of 83. As in points per 100 possessions.

Meanwhile, Lamb scored 6 points on 3-for-3 shooting despite coming in 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) for the season with a “barely registering a pulse” PER of 0.7. To put this into even better perspective, Lamb had scored 8 total points this season before last night. Then he scored 8 points on perfect shooting against the Bulls (3-for-3 from the field and 2-for-2 from the line).

Said Hamilton: “It was crazy. It was one of them things that you never expect. It’s really hard to put your finger on. They kind of brought guys off the bench on their team that came out and just played hard, and they played harder than us in that fourth quarter. They got to ever loose ball and just played with a sense of toughness.”

Why the Bulls Should Have Expected Something Like This:
The Bucks bench went crazy. Absolutely stark-raving nuts. They shot exceptionally well and played with manic energy.

That said…Milwaukee’s reserves are among the best in the league. If not the best.

According to Hoopstats, the Bucks bench ranks fifth in the league in steals (4.8), third in points per game (40.8), second in field goal percentage (47.5), first in rebounds (23.0), first in offensive rebounds (6.5), first in blocks (4.3), first in Efficiency (53.9) and first in Efficiency Differential (22.7).

Analysis:
Looking back on this most epic of fails, it’s clear that the Bulls missed Derrick Rose. They had no go-to guy to stave off the Bucks’ incredible comeback or create a good shot at the end of the game.

It’s also clear that the Bulls dearly miss their departed Bench Mob. The starters — who were forced to log long minutes last night — could not match the energy of Milwaukee’s reserves. The Bucks bench disrupted everything the Bulls were doing on offense and shredded their vaunted defense.

But beyond that…the Bucks bench was white hot. Yes, as I pointed out above, they have been performing well all season. But as I also pointed out, they were also playing well beyond their normal scope, especially guys like Ilyasova and Lamb. During their comeback, the Bucks drilled nine shots from 16-23 feet. According to Hoopdata, that’s more than they made during most games.

Could the Bulls’ defense have done a better job? Possibly. They made several poor rotations and were terrible defending the pick and roll during Milwaukee’s huge run. But the Bucks were way hotter than the norm, which sort of makes this event a lightning strike occurrence in that it’s unlikely that particular group of players could do what they did ever again.

But they did it once. Which was enough to stun the Bulls.

Said Deng: ”We played terrible. I got to look at it again, but we’re not playing like how we need to play. We’re not playing like how we used to play. … We got a lot of stuff to work on defensively and offensively. We got to do a lot better. We got to play together more. We’ve got to move the ball better, we’ve got to play better defense, we got to get stops. There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do better. I can’t pinpoint one thing.”

DNP-CDs:
Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed watched the game from the bench. Ditto for Vladimir Radmanovic.

Liked:
Taj Gibson’s career-high 5 assists.

Disliked:
42 seconds. That’s how much Deng wasn’t in the game last night.

Player of the Game:
Hamilton. He was on fire: 12-for-24 from the field, 2-for-2 on threes, 4-for-4 from the line.

Goat of the Night:
Nate Robinson. Little Nate failed to register an assist and the Bulls were outscored by 12 points during his 10 minutes on the court. Given his defensive inadequacies, the Bulls rely on Robinson the provide energy and an offensive spark off the bench. He provided neither last night.

Goats of the Year:
Bulls management for trying to convince us that adding Robinson, Belinelli, Mohammed and Radmanovic could make up for the (intentional) losses of C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer.

The Bulls were already greatly hindered by Rose’s injury. The front office further handicapped the team by replacing one of the league’s strongest benches with what is turning out to be one of worst. Only letting Asik go — which will prevent a $15 million cap hit two seasons from now — is defensible. Brewer, Korver and Watson were sent packing to so Jerry Reinsdorf can continue to Scrooge McDuck his way through life. Have I mentioned recently that the Bulls are the league’s most profitable team? Well, they are.

The fact of the matter is this: NBA teams win with talent. These are not the 2010-11 or 2011-12 Bulls. This year’s squad is playing hard…they just aren’t nearly as talented or as cohesive as the previous two versions. Rose

Quote of the Night:
Noah: “There’s a lot of guys who aren’t here who were pretty good defensively.”

Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.

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