The games keep on coming as, unfortunately, so does the injuries for the Bulls.
With only nine healthy bodies – including Mike James, who dressed, but is still recovering from a sprained MCL – the Bulls (8-11) couldn’t overcome the nine healthy bodies that suited up for the Milwaukee Bucks, losing another frustrating game 78-74.
The loss puts the team three games under .500 for the first time in the Tom Thibodeau era and according to Bulls PR, it’s the first time since Jan. 2008, the team has failed to break 80 points in back-to-back games.
The Bucks (5-16) held the Bulls to just 35 percent shooting in the second half, outscoring them 43 to 32 in the process. Despite the putrid shooting, the Bulls had opportunities to tie the game in the final minute.
After John Henson’s 22-foot heave to beat the shot clock gave the Bucks a 75-72 advantage with 1:35 remaining, the Bulls missed on four opportunities to cut the deficit to one or tie the game. Ersan Ilyasoca’s free throws with four seconds remaining iced the game for good.
“There is a way to win every game,” Thibodeau said. “You have four starters out. If you defend and rebound and take care of the ball, you are going to be in a position to win; it doesn’t matter. Everyone who is called upon is capable of doing their job. 18 turnovers hurt us. In the first half we had great ball movement with 14 assists. In the second half, eh …. We have to do better.”
Playing against his former team, Mike Dunleavy scored a season-high 24 points (18 in the second quarter). Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 12 rebounds.
The Bulls actually controlled the first half pretty well to hold a 42-35 lead going into halftime, but the Bucks went to a zone defense that left Kirk Hinrich (0-for-10) and Marquis Teague (1-for-7) forced to take outside shots and made it difficult to get good looks at the rim.
“I thought it caused us some problems,” Dunleavy said of the zone. “We just became a little hesitant with it. We couldn’t really break it, make them uncomfortable in it and get them out of it. A lot of times you do that by knocking shots down, offensive rebounds and getting them confused. We just couldn’t do it and they stuck with it for a long time and just kept the game kind of slow.”
John Henson led Milwaukee with a game-high 25 points and 14 rebounds to go along with six blocks and three steals. Brandon Knight added 19.
The Bulls will travel to New York tomorrow to take on the Knicks (5-15).
Joakim Noah became the latest scratch from the starting lineup because of what the team is calling a right thigh bruise, which he says had playing through, but aggravated at Tuesday morning’s shootaround. He told reporters after the game that he will travel with the team to New York.
It appears likely that he along with Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng will again sit out as they recover from their respective ailments. It will be another tough test for the team’s mental toughness.
“We’re down four starters right now and it’s frustrating, it’s tough,” Boozer said. “But I take my hat off to my team. We got a bunch of guys that play hard. We’re doing the best we can. It’s unfortunate when you’re missing the guys that are missing, but guys stepped up. My job is to try and keep everybody positive. It’s still early in the season. We’re a quarter of the way through and just stay positive. We’ll start getting guys back. We’re going to be in every game because we play hard."