MILWAUKEE — Because of the proximity of the two cities and the surly relationship between the two fan bases, a rivalry between the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls would make sense.
The Bears and Packers are bitter rivals, while the Brewers have had their moments with the White Sox and now the Cubs.
But the Bulls and Bucks haven’t been able to establish any kind of rivalry because the series between the two teams has been so one-sided, especially of late. Chicago has won or tied the season series with Milwaukee for five straight seasons. The Bucks haven’t beaten the Bulls in their home building since January 8, 2010.
While the BMO Harris Bradley Center was still packed with Bulls fans and Chicago made it nine consecutive victories in a row in Milwaukee with a 95-86 win Wednesday over the Bucks, the intensity level was as close to playoff-like as you can get in November.
The young Bucks had one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference, sans Joakim Noah, in a one-possession game for most of the fourth quarter. Chicago’s group of proven veterans just simply made fewer mistakes and more plays down the stretch.
"The Bulls are a great team," Bucks rookie forward Jabari Parker said. "Everybody knows that. They are one of the top-tier teams in our division, but they are also beatable if we do the things we are supposed to do.
"It was winnable. But we tallied on a loss in the end. That’s all that counts."
A 32-point second quarter left the Bucks with a 53-49 advantage at halftime. But Milwaukee hit just two of its first 12 shots to start the third quarter and trailed 72-63 with 1:56 to play in the period.
But the Bucks closed the third quarter on a 7-0 run to pull within 72-70 heading to the fourth quarter.
"We talked about that coming out of halftime, knowing they were going to turn it up a little bit and put more pressure on us at both ends," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "You could see that in the third quarter. We just couldn’t get going with our pace and tempo.
"We missed a lot of shots in the paint tonight. I think a lot of it was just rushing the shots. We were being unselfish, but we just didn’t finish the plays."
Milwaukee’s offensive struggles carried over to the fourth quarter, as Chicago turned up the heat defensively to limit the Bucks to just 33 points in the second half on 13 of 43 shooting. The stingy Bulls defense forced the Bucks into quite a few long jump shots that didn’t fall, while Milwaukee couldn’t convert the few easy looks it did get in the second half.
The Bucks were also done in by their inability to keep the Bulls off the free-throw line. While a couple of close calls went Chicago’s way, Milwaukee committed its share of silly fouls.
Chicago was in the bonus with over six minutes to play and hit 9 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"We made some fouls that we have to learn from," Kidd said. "That’s just as simple as it gets. It is nothing that is that tricky. It is just us knowing the rules. You can’t have your hands on a guy with the ball. There are little things for us to correct, but there were a lot of good things we did tonight."
While the Bulls have championship aspirations, the Bucks are using the 2014-15 season to not only improve on the court but also to win back a fan base alienated by years of struggle.
Unlike in years past during a visit from the Bulls, the Bucks fans in the BMO Harris Bradley Center had moments to feel good about, both for the present and the future.
"They’re going to be really good," Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said of the Bucks.