Preview: Bucks vs. Bulls
MILWAUKEE — A 115-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night snapped the Milwaukee Bucks’ winning streak at three games but they’ll try and start another hot streak Friday night when they play host to the Chicago Bulls at the Bradley Center.
Tuesday’s setback was a blip in the radar for Milwaukee, which has won 11 of its last 16 overall and sits four games over .500 (15-11), good for fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The Bucks’ recent run coincides with the arrival of Eric Bledsoe via a trade with Phoenix on Nov. 7. His addition added some power to Milwaukee’s offense, which is averaging 104.0 points on 48 percent shooting — the fourth-best percentage in the league.
Defense is still a problem at times, especially from beyond the arc, and the Bucks have been especially hindered by a rash of injuries to key reserves over the last few weeks.
Point guard Matthew Dellavedova has missed 12 games because of a bout of tendinitis in his left knee. He’s been rehabbing and participating in practice but hasn’t been quite ready to return to full action.
The same injury has kept guard Tony Snell out, as well and Milwaukee got more bad news Thursday when it was announced that Mirza Teletovic, sidelined since Nov. 7 with torn cartilage in his left knee, would be out indefinitely after doctors discovered pulmonary emboli in both of his lungs.
“You just take it one game at a time,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “we’re a young team and right now we’re not healthy. We’ve got our next guys up and those guys have been ready and playing.”
The Bulls make the short trek north on I-94 with an eye on extending their season-best four-game winning streak.
That streak began Nov. 29 when Nikola Mirotic saw action for the first time this season, having spent the first six weeks recovering from a facial fracture suffered in a scuffle teammate Bobby Portis.
He scored six points that night, but in the three games since he’s averaging 19.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the floor.
“I’ve been telling you guys,” Mirotic said. “I’ve been very positive. Some of you guys thought I was joking, but I was not joking. I was very, very serious. I told you we were going to be 4-0.”
Most assumed that Chicago, after losing stars Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade during the offseason, would be looking to accumulate ping pong balls rather than think about a potential playoff run.
“We’ve tried to shut everything out about that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We come in every day and talk about win or lose, taking steps in the right direction. After some early games where we played well, we had a couple setbacks, we had a couple low-effort games that can’t happen. Whether we win or lose, you go in after the game and say ‘We were the harder playing team.’ And we’ve done that for the majority, really, of the last 10, 12 games. We played with great passion, with great energy.
“We’re not thinking that way. I can promise you that.”
The Central Division rivals are meeting for the first time this season and will face off again in Milwaukee 11 days later.
The Bulls won the season series, 3-1, year ago and have won 11 of the last 16 meetings at the Bradley Center.