Bucks continue to have Bulls' number

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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.

Swanigan's, Diallo's decisions and how it affects Bulls' NBA Draft

Swanigan's, Diallo's decisions and how it affects Bulls' NBA Draft

The deadline for underclassmen to pull their names out of the NBA Draft passed on Wednesday at midnight.

There were a few surprises, and a handful of decisions had an effect on how the Bulls will go about next month's draft.

Staying in the draft

Caleb Swangian, PF, Purdue: The sophomore All-American surprised many by keeping his name in the draft. Swanigan actually tested the waters after his freshman season but returned to the Boilermakers in 2016. He averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 35 games, earning Big Ten Player of the Year honors and was a National Player of the Year candidate. It's no secret the 6-foot-9 Swangian can score  - he had 15 games of 20 or more points - and showed some ability to shoot from deep, making nearly 45 percent of his 85 3-point attempts. Quickness and conditioning will be the real test for the 245-pound Swanigan, who has already lost significant weight since high school. Questions about his defense (he had just 27 steals and 36 blocks in two seasons) also stand out. With Nikola Mirotic's future in Chicago unknown, the Bulls could be in the market for depth at power forward. He wouldn't be an option for the Bulls at No. 14, but if he slides out of the first round he could be an option at No. 38.

D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan: After averaging just 6.1 minutes as a sophomore, Wilson burst onto the scene as a junior, averaging 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 30.4 minutes for the Wolverines. He did his best work during the postseason; during Michigan's Big Ten Championship run and Sweet 16 appearance, Wilson averaged 15.6 points on 54 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Standing 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Wilson leaves some to be desired on the defensive end but has the ability to play as a combo forward - he had a 3-inch growth spurt after high school. Like Swanigan, Wilson won't be an option for the Bulls at No. 14 but could be a second-round option. He'd give the Bulls a similar look to what Bobby Portis does with a little more versatility on the wing.

Going back to college

Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky: The NBA Draft's biggest mystery could have been a home-run selection for the Bulls in the first round. Alas, Diallo has decided to play a year under John Calipari at Kentucky and likely boost his draft stock. Having not played since December, where he played at a prep academy in Connecticut, so there wasn't much film of the 6-foot-5 leaper. Still, after Thon Maker went No. 10 to the Bucks last year there was thought that a team would take a gamble on a high-upside mystery.

Andrew Jones, PG, Texas: There was little surprise that Jones, a five-star recruit who put together a solid freshman season, returned. He's still a bit raw as a prospect despite having elite size (6-foot-4) and solid athleticism, and another year running the point with incoming five-star recruit Mo Bomba could really improve his draft stock. The Bulls clearly have a need at the point (less if Rajon Rondo returns) and if Jones had made the leap he likely would have been around at No. 38. Even still, Jones is a player to keep an eye on during next year's draft, assuming Cameron Payne and Jerian Grant don't make significant improvements.

Moritz Wagner, PF, Michigan: There's a need on every NBA team for a stretch forward with 3-point potential. But those teams will have to wait at least another year after Wagner decided to return to Michigan for his junior season. Like Wilson, who kept his name in the draft, Wagner had an excellent postseason run for the Wolverines. That stretch included a 17-point effort against Minnesota and a career-high 26-point outing in a win over Louisville. He weighed in at just 231 pounds and only averaged 4.2 rebounds per game, so adding some strength to his game will help his draft prospect for next year. He could have been an option for the Bulls at No. 38.

See how one fan completed the ultimate Chicago sports scavenger hunt

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@Pappy_Hour

See how one fan completed the ultimate Chicago sports scavenger hunt

For one day at least, Marc-Louis Paprzyca is Chicago's greatest sports fan.

Paprzyca - known on Twitter as MLP or Pappy_Hour - completed the ultimate Chicago sports scavenger hunt Wednesday to honor Natinoal Scavenger Hunt Day, needing only three hours to accomplish the feat:

He got started early on the South Side:

Then on to The Bean:

Da Bearsss were the next stop:

Next, the North Side:

And the best for last:

What's amazing is how MLP was able to don different Chicago sports attire for every single challenge. He even donned Jordan 11s β€” the ones MJ wore during the 1996 NBA Playoffs β€” at the United Center.

MLP β€” a blogger for Sports Mockery and three-time winner of Beer Money β€” won a pair of tickets to attend either a Cubs or Sox game.