White stays hot, but Bulls can't finish off Bucks

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls' Coby White tries to drive past Milwaukee Bucks' Pat Connaughton during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 124-115.

    Chicago Bulls' Coby White tries to drive past Milwaukee Bucks' Pat Connaughton during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 124-115.

 
 
Updated 11/14/2019 10:39 PM

MILWAUKEE -- Identifying real improvement from an NBA team isn't complicated.

If a team plays well for three quarters, then gets streamrolled in the fourth, like the Bulls did against the Lakers last week, that's not progress. That's a superior opponent not taking the game seriously until crunchtime.

 

When a team takes a quality opponent down to the final possession, has a chance to win -- and ideally does that more than once -- that's actual progress.

The Bulls sort of split the difference between those two scenarios Thursday night at the Fiserv Forum. They played well in the first half, watched Milwaukee dominate the third quarter, then stayed competitive until the final minute before losing 124-115.

"I thought we knuckled down and we fought back into the game," coach Jim Boylen said. "That's something we haven't been doing a good job of and I'm really happy with that. That's something we talk about. So the game's slipping away, it gets to double digits, and we fought our way back in it."

For starters, Bulls rookie Coby White picked up where he left off Tuesday -- scorching hot. After knocking down 7 of 8 shots from 3-point range in the fourth quarter against the Knicks, White buried 4 of his first 5 attempts against the Bucks. That's a tidy 11 of 13 from long range before missing again.

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White cooled off in the second half but still finished with a team-high 26 points. Zach Lavine added 25 as the Bulls put six players in double figures.

White scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half and when he gets it going he's always going to see defenses adjusting to stop him.

"No, I just didn't make shots like I did the first half," White said. "The second half felt like a lot slower game. I didn't get as many clean looks, but I got some good ones that I didn't knock down."

The Bulls led 82-78 with 7:08 left in the third, but gave up a 19-4 run to finish the quarter as the offense stop functioning.

They did put up a fight in the fourth quarter. Ryan Arcidiacono had an impressive sequence when he won two battles for loose balls, took a big hit to draw a charge on Sterling Brown, assisted on back-to-back 3-pointers by White and Kris Dunn, and hit a corner 3-pointer of his own.

Boylen even asked the 6-foot-3 Arcidiacono to guard 7-foot Giannis Antetokounmpo late in the fourth quarter and he had some success, even though the reigning MVP finished with 38 points and 15 rebounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I did it last year, too, just tried to be physical," Arcidiacono said. "Last year I drew a couple charges. This year, just tried to get into his bod, make him take a couple tough ones. I think I fouled him on one or two, but he missed a couple as well."

The Bulls (4-8) had numerous chances to cut into a 4-point deficit in the fourth quarter and couldn't do it until a LaVine lane drive made it 117-114 with 1:52 remaining.

The Bucks answered quickly with 2 straight baskets by Eric Bledsoe (31 points), once when he rebounded an Antetokounmpo miss, and the lead was back to 7 with time running out.

"I think we're making steps in the right direction, but it's a win-loss league and it still counts as a loss no matter how good or how bad you play," Arcidiacono said.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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