Bulls’ defense improves, but not enough to beat the Bucks

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 11: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks the ball during the game against the Chicago Bulls on February 11, 2019 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – It was a part of the Bulls’ game that had Jim Boylen pulling out another memorable quote before his team faced one of the more prolific offensive squads in the NBA.

“What I’ve learned in this business…it’s a ‘Clean Up,'” said the head coach when discussing the Bulls’ defensive inconsistency the previous five games. “When something’s going well, you kinda clean it up, it’s like house cleaning, you know? Maybe you’ve got to dust this day, maybe you’ve got to vacuum this day, and we’ve got to clean things up with new people in a new system, and new terminology for them, and new parts.

“Because there is a chemistry defensively, too.”

Boylen is trying to find that more consistently as his Bulls get towards the All-Star Break.

The had a strong performance against the Heat on January 30th (89 points) and against the Nets (Feb. 8th), but were bad in losses to the Hornets February 2nd (125), the Pelicans on February 6th (125), and their last game against the Wizards Saturday (134). Changing that trend against the Bucks – the second-highest scoring team in the NBA (117.2 points per game) – would likely be difficult.

Yet the Bulls held the own for the most part, holding the Bucks to just 22 points in the first quarter and a modest 50 points at the half. They had the Bucks at just 72 points with 2:09 remaining in the third but after that it was all about Milwaukee’s offense.

Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 29 points, the Bucks scored 40 points in the final 14:09 of the game and pulled away for a 112-99 victory.

While the did hold their opponents five points under their season average, their offense wasn’t good enough to prevent their 11th-consecutive home loss as their record slips to 13-44 on the season. Milwaukee, who has won seven of their last eight games, remains ahead of the Warriors for the best record in the NBA at 42-14.

While held in check most of the night, the Bulls were able to make a run in the final three minutes, getting the Bucks lead down to three with 2:55 left. But the Bucks finished the game on a 12-2 run to snuff out any shot of getting upset. Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 27 points with Lauri Markkanen – who averaged 28.7 points in February coming into the contest – adding 20 of his own.

 

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