Chicago Bulls

Bucks continue to have Bulls' number

979403.png

Bucks continue to have Bulls' number

After starting 2013 with three consecutive victories, the Bulls (19-14) were flying high, though they also had revenge on their minds with the Bucks (18-16) in town Wednesday night at the United Center.

But after a solid first half of play, instead of avenging their November 27-point collapse, the Bulls were overwhelmed by hot-shooting Milwaukee, particularly point guard Brandon Jennings, and dropped a 104-96 contest.

All five starters scored in the early going, as the Bulls got off to an 11-2 start against their Central Division rivals. The hosts recent trend of unselfish, balanced offense and seizing transition opportunities continued, while defensively, they smothered the Bucks, playing under interim head coach Jim Boylan, a former Bulls assistant under Scott Skiles, the man he replaced in Milwaukee.

The visitors quickly faced a double-digit deficit, as they couldnt muster up a cohesive offensive flow, nor stop the tandem of Carlos Boozer (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (eight points, 12 rebounds) on the interior, not to mention the combination of long-distance shooting and playmaking backup point guard Nate Robinson (19 points, six assists, five rebounds), filling in for injured starter Kirk Hinrich the veteran suffered an elbow injury in Mondays home win over Cleveland, giving him six separate injuries on the campaign brought to the table.

Led by Robinsons trio of three-pointers in as many attempts, the Bulls led, 33-23, after the opening period.

The Bulls second unit had been playing solid basketball as of late, but with rookie point guard Marquis Teague running the show, there was some slippage, which allowed Milwaukee to rapidly climb back into the game. The explosive backcourt tandem of Jennings (35 points, six assists, six rebounds, 5-for-10 three-point shooting) and Monta Ellis (14 points, five rebounds, five assists), along with veteran reserve guard Beno Udrih (10 points, four assists), propelled the Bucks, who narrowed the gap to make it a single-digit affair.

But behind the scoring of reserve Marco Belinelli and Boozer, who picked up right where he left off after being reinserted following his usual first-quarter rest, the Bulls gradually rebuilt their comfortable winning margin. Despite the play of their guests guards and versatile forward Ersan Ilyasova (13 points, six rebounds), the Bulls held a 57-50 advantage at the intermission.

After the break, Milwaukee, buoyed by Jennings scoring and the defense of league-leading shot-blocker Larry Sanders (12 rebounds, seven blocked shots), whittled away at the deficit they faced, eventually overtaking their hosts at the 7:20 mark of the third period, prompting Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to halt the proceedings. While the streaky Jennings point production and Sanders ability to protect the rim were factors in the visitors surge, the fact that the Bulls experienced one of their periodic scoring droughts was also significant.

Jennings shouldered the Bucks offensive burden, hitting four triples in the quarter after each of the last two, he stared down the Bulls bench and imitated Robinsons post-basket airplane celebration and as he caught fire en route to a 20-point period, Milwaukee acquired some breathing room.

Forwards Boozer and Luol Deng (18 points, five rebounds) sparked a furious late-quarter Bulls rally to minimize the separation, but headed into the final stanza, they still trailed the Bucks by a point, 81-80.

Milwaukee got the jump on the hosts at the outset of the fourth quarter, as Ellis and veteran reserve swingman Mike Dunleavy Jr. (16 points, 4-for-5 three-point shooting) led the way until the Bulls second unit fought its way back, closing the gap to a single point midway through the period.

The likes of Belinelli, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler were catalysts for the home team, which used an aggressive, scrambling defense to fuel the comeback attempt.

A close-knit affair heading into the stretch run, despite timely baskets from Jennings, Ilyasova and Dunleavy, who also lit it up from long range on the evening, the Bulls hung around, kept plugging away and with 1:50 remaining, it was a one-possession game, 100-96, in the Bucks favor, after Boozer split a pair of free throws.

But the hosts, facing a Milwaukee defense that leads the league in blocked shots they swatted 14 this evening couldnt get over the hump, as the inability to score late, coupled with a Jennings jumper with 24.6 seconds to go sealed the deal, giving the Bulls their first loss of 2013.

How Bulls helped Thunder pull off blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade

mcdermottanthony.jpg
USA TODAY

How Bulls helped Thunder pull off blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade

For all the Bulls fans who wanted to see the organization pull off a Carmelo Anthony trade over the years, they just got their wish.

Well, sort of.

According to The Vertical's Shams Charania, the Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks have agreed to a blockbuster trade which will send Anthony to the Thunder for Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter and the Bulls' 2018 second-round pick.

Coincidentally, the Bulls traded a comparable package to what the Thunder just surrendered for the 10-time NBA All-Star.

Just before the NBA's trade deadline last February, the Bulls sent McDermott, Taj Gibson and a 2018 second-round draft choice to the Thunder for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow.

As the Thunder load up for a postseason run in the Western Conference, the Bulls are in the midst of rebuilding year after trading Jimmy Butler earlier this offseason and not having much to show from their previous trade with the Thunder.

The Bulls let Lauvergne and Morrow depart via free agency this offseason, while Payne will start the season on the shelf after undergoing foot surgery.

After the deal becomes official via a league call on Monday, Anthony will join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook and All-Star Paul George in Oklahoma City.

The 33-year-old Anthony averaged 22.4 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Knicks last season.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls the worst team in NBA?

bulls.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Bulls the worst team in NBA?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Shepkowski (670 The Score) and Dan Cahill (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap on the panel. Jake Arrieta will return to the rotation to face the Brewers. Can he recapture his pre-injury form? Mike Glennon gets another start Sunday but should he get the hook if he struggles again?

Plus, the guys discuss the one metric that says the Bulls are the worst team in the NBA.