Bulls give Bucks a battle, but can't finish off win

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo fouls Bulls' Ayo Dosunmu during the first half on Friday in Milwaukee.

    Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo fouls Bulls' Ayo Dosunmu during the first half on Friday in Milwaukee. Associated Press

  • Bulls' DeMar DeRozan drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton during the first half on Friday in Milwaukee.

    Bulls' DeMar DeRozan drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton during the first half on Friday in Milwaukee. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/21/2022 10:54 PM

Facing the defending NBA champs for the first time this season, the Bulls looked past their missing pieces, literally picked themselves off the floor and had a chance to win in the final minute.

Ultimately, there was no payoff. They lost at Milwaukee 94-90 despite 35 points from DeMar DeRozan. The Bulls were cold from long range, particularly Coby White, who went 0-for-9 from behind the 3-point line. At one point, the Bulls missed 18 consecutive 3-pointers.

 

But considering Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball didn't play, there was reason to be encouraged, especially with the defensive effort.

"It was a fun game," DeRozan said. "Those are the type of games you want to be in. Defending champs, we were short-handed. We didn't go in there with no excuses. I'm proud of my guys. We went out there and competed. We gave ourselves a chance."

The action literally heated up midway through the third quarter when Alex Caruso went up for a layup on the fast break and hit the floor hard after a foul by Milwaukee's Grayson Allen. Caruso landed on his left shoulder.

Going back to his days at Duke, Allen has a history of dirty plays, particularly trying to trip opponents. So it was no surprise Allen was given a flagrant 2 foul and ejected.

After the game, Bulls coach Billy Donovan didn't hold back his criticism of Allen's foul.

"I just know the play looked really, really bad, on a guy that's got a history of doing that, all the way back to college," Donovan said. "I hope the league takes a hard look at that because God forbid this guy was in a stretcher going out of the building right now, that would not be good.

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"I know this is a physical game and there's plays at the basket, there's a lot of contact and things like that. There's a right way you can go up and have physicality. Not that way, in my opinion."

Donovan pointed out how the Bulls already lost Patrick Williams to a flagrant foul, which caused a wrist injury. Donovan thought New York center Mitchell Robinson made a basketball play in that case. That wasn't the case with this foul.

Caruso said his wrist was sore and he taped it up after hitting the floor.

"Wrist is a little banged up," Caruso said. "Went up, was going to try to two-hand flush, little dunk in transition. Didn't really know what happened during the play, But afterward looking back at it, the dude just grabbed me out of the air. Kind of B.S.

"I don't know what else you can do about it. Just glad I didn't have any major, major scary injuries right away. Also kind of worried about my arm. You live and you move on, got to play another game soon."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Bulls trailed by seven before Nikola Vucevic knocked down a three with 1:58 left. They strung together three straight defensive stops, but only converted one.

Vucevic missed a three, then DeRozan drew a foul and the free throws cut the margin to 92-90 with 1:10 left. When the Bulls got it again, DeRozan tried a three, but it didn't fall and the Bulls had to foul. Khris Middleton's free throws made it a 4-point lead with 15.8 seconds left.

In an effort to combat Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo, Donovan chose to start two-way forward Tyler Cook for the first time this season. Cook isn't a rookie, but he wasn't happy about the whistles, or lack thereof, he dealt with while trying to guard the two-time MVP.

Cook picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. Antetokounmpo finished with 30 points.

On the other end, though, DeRozan did a masterful job of drawing fouls and hit his first 13 free throws, and finished the game 17 of 18.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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