Bucks can’t overcome sloppy play in loss to Bulls
After the Milwaukee Bucks lost a sloppy, foul-filled game at home to the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn’t care about aesthetics. He was just happy to get a win.
His counterpart on the sidelines, Bucks coach Larry Drew, sure would love one of those — as ugly as you’d please to make it — at this point in the season.
The Bucks (7-28) suffered their 14th home loss in 17 games Friday night, an 81-72 stinker to visiting Chicago, which has won the past eight matchups at the Bradley Center. Milwaukee committed 29 fouls, including 20 in the first half, which was its most in a half since a Nov. 24, 2008 game at Orlando.
Milwaukee burst out of the gate to start the game, playing frenetic defense, jumping passing lanes and getting out in transition, taking an early 10-1 lead that forced a Chicago timeout with 8:04 remaining in the first quarter. But the Bulls began pounding the ball inside and taking advantage of the Bucks’ overzealousness, force-feeding power forward Carlos Boozer and getting to the free-throw line at will.
The Bucks’ 20 first-half fouls resulted in 28 free throws for the Bulls, who made 22 of them. Meanwhile, Milwaukee got to the line for just six of their own attempts in the half. For the game, Chicago had a 39-to-12 advantage at the stripe, the most lopsided margin of the season for the Bucks.
"We have to be smarter with our fouls," Drew said. "The difference in the free throws is the difference in a game. We have to be better. You put a team on a free-throw line that amount of times, and it’s that big of a difference free-throw-wise. You can’t expect good results at the end."
Boozer manhandled the Bucks inside, especially power forward Ersan Ilyasova, who was no match for Boozer’s physicality. Coming off a two-game injury absence, Boozer finished with game-highs of 19 points and 13 rebounds in just 31 minutes.
The Bucks’ trio of starting frontcourt players, center Larry Sanders, power forward Ersan Ilyasova and small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, struggled with foul trouble throughout the game. During a critical Bulls run in the middle of the second quarter, all were on the bench. The three players finished with a combined 15 points and 16 rebounds, and most of that production was courtesy of Ilyasova, who had 14 points and six rebounds.
Guard O.J. Mayo, coming off the bench as a super-sub, did his best to keep the Bucks in the game as they faded in the third quarter — a trend that’s becoming all too common this season. Mayo made big shots at the end of the second and third quarters, and finished with a team-high 16 points. But he, too, recognized the uphill battle of trying to win a game when the opponent is given so many charity shots at the free-throw line.
"If we cut (the Bulls’ 39 attempts) down to half as a team," said Mayo, "playing without fouling and putting ourselves in the position to help one another, we could’ve had a better chance of winning that ballgame."
Equally as troubling as the Bucks’ hacking was their inability to get anything going offensively after the first four minutes of the contest. Milwaukee shot 31.8 percent for the game, including 33.3 percent on 3-pointers. They didn’t make layups and took ill-advised and contested shots from long distance, and they missed their final 11 shots.
"We had opportunities down the stretch," Drew said. "We missed shots and we didn’t make the plays. Going down the stretch you’ve got to make the plays. We forced a couple down the stretch. It probably wasn’t the best selection as far as a couple of the shots that we took, but I’ve said it before: going down the stretch, you’ve got to make plays.
"You make plays, you win. You don’t make plays, you won’t win."
Mayo, who couldn’t convert a couple of attempts in the final possessions, agreed and took responsibility.
"I had a good look in the corner," he said. "Khris (Middleton) drew two guys, kicked it to me, and I had a tremendous look. Me and (Brandon) Knight were just trying to get to the rim, kind of force the whistle a little bit. Just couldn’t get it in our favor, which happens sometimes."