John Henson had his back to the basket and nowhere to turn with the shot clock about to expire. His only option was to throw up a prayer of a 22-foot shot. Spinning and fading off his left foot, Henson drained what proved to be the difference in the game.
It was the finishing touch on Henson’s big night, as the second-year forward led the shorthanded Bucks to a 78-74 victory over a Chicago team missing quite a few of its key players.
“That was a huge shot,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “I guess the basketball gods were with us tonight. It was a hope and a prayer and it went in.
“He drained it. You need a shot like that, a break like that now and then.”
Like a good number of its games this season, Milwaukee played with just 10 players Tuesday as Khris Middleton gutted through an ankle injury. The Bulls were without center Joakim Noah with a right thigh injury, forward Luol Deng with a sore left Achilles and guard Jimmy Butler with a right toe injury. Chicago has struggled to a 2-6 record since Derrick Rose went down with a season-ending knee injury and the Bulls have now scored under 80 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 2008.
The difference between the two struggling teams Tuesday was Henson, who finished with a season-high 25 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and three steals.
“Phenomenal,” Bucks forward Ekpe Udoh said of Henson. “He’s growing up right now. He’s playing big minutes and being efficient. Salute to him right now.”
Milwaukee used eight guys for most of Tuesday’s game, as the ninth, Miroslav Raduljica, played for 83 seconds. The players the Bucks have healthy are grinding it out on the court and finally met a team equally wounded.
“You see what we have,” Drew said. “At shootaround this morning there were things we couldn’t do because we had nine guys. These guys sucked it up and gutted it out. In a situation like this you need a little luck to fall your way. There were some plays where we were just pretty lucky in. We made some big shots, we made some plays down the stretch but there were a couple of cases where things went our way.
“If we are shorthanded it certainly helps that the other team is shorthanded, as well. We knew going into this game that both teams were very depleted and it was just a matter of which team came out.”
Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy burned his former team in the first half, as the veteran scored 18 of his 24 points in the second quarter to give Chicago a 42-35 halftime lead.
Dunleavy made all seven of his second-quarter shots and was having his way with Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Drew made an adjustment to put point guard Brandon Knight on Dunleavy and it worked.
“We did struggle defending him one-on-one and off of the screens they were setting on him,” Drew said. “Brandon did a phenomenal job defensively. With his scrappiness and the quickness, Brandon is a rugged defender for his size. He just did a great job.”
He even started Nate Wolters in place of Middleton to start the second half to keep Knight on Dunleavy, who scored just six points the rest of the way.
“We just wanted to make sure we got a man on Dunleavy and got somebody in his pocket the entire second half,” Knight said. “Our team did a good job of adjusting to that and making sure we limited him in the second half.”