Derrick Rose is out for months recovering from knee surgery. Kirk Hinrich, who nearly signed with the Bucks in the offseason, sat out the game for the Bulls with a right thumb injury.
Chicago still won the battle at point guard tonight.
Nate Robinson turned in an absolute gem of a performance, scoring 26 points and dishing out 13 assists without committing a single turnover.
Near the end of the first quarter, the Bucks held the ball for a final shot with the shot clock and game clocks nearly equal. Marquis Daniels fired up a long three-pointer, which would have been the quarter’s final shot, had it not missed rim entirely. As a result, the Bulls got a few extra seconds with the ball. Robinson split a double-team, ducked behind Mike Dunleavy and banked in a 27-foot heave.
The Bucks never got the lead back. A 20-2 run by the Bulls put the Bucks in a hole from which they would not recover, though Milwaukee did pull within three points twice in the game’s final minutes.
John Henson left the game with an apparent knee injury. Dunleavy got tangled in a rebounding scrum, bumped off Samuel Dalembert, and fell on the back on Henson’s leg. Henson left to the locker room on his own power.
Oddly, most of the Bulls had off nights, too, and yet the Bucks were done in by an overachieving fragment of the Bulls’ roster: Robinson, Richard Hamilton, Joakim Noah, and (surrending sigh) Nazr Mohammed. That’s the whole list. The rest of the Bulls were average at best. Carlos Boozer could not make a shot and committed both too frequent fouls and turnovers. Luol Deng looked like a player returning from a groin injury. The other Marquis, Marquis Teague, fumbled around as rookie point guards do. Newcomer Marco Bellinelli badly needed a quarterback’s laminated wrist playbook.
So where did the Bucks go wrong? It boils down to two abject failures: First, the perimeter defense by Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis on Robinson and Hamilton left a whole lot to be desired. (Monta, in particular, fell out of position routinely while guarding Hamilton.) Second, the jump-shooting power forward tandem of Ersan Ilyasova and Drew Gooden took and missed a slew of jump shots without creating much else. They shot a combined 2-for-16 from the field.
Beyond that, there were some positives for the Bucks. Tobias Harris actually outplayed Deng, hitting the boards and finishing well on the fast break — including a pair of double-clutch lay-ins.
Larry Sanders got his second start of the preseason. Though Noah fared much better against Sanders than he did against Dalembert, Larry continued to play well. He made four of his five shots, including a spinning drive to the hoop. He notched two assists against just one turnover. He does need to be careful about overhelping. There were at least two occasions on which he brought a double-team to the shooter when it wasn’t warranted, and he got burned by easy passes inside to Noah.
Samuel Dalembert is a load. Joakim Noah was largely ineffective against him. It is extremely tough for opponents to keep him off the glass. He put up a double-double with three blocks in 25 minutes. He deflects interior passes. He whopped in another two-handed power dunk in traffic tonight. Skiles hinted in the pre-game that changes in the starting lineup are coming for the Memphis game on Thursday. I think it’s a safe bet that Sam makes it back as a starter for that game, less because Sanders lost it and more because Sam stole it back and Skiles wants to see how it plays out with Dalembert starting in the middle.
Joel Przybilla only played a handful of minutes and barely put a dent in the boxscore. But he sets huge picks. (Ask Doron. Ugh.) Jennings was more open coming off Przybilla’s screens than he was during the rest of the night. Plus, Joel got an assist. An assist!
Aside from his injury, John Henson‘s performance fell way back off his showing against Detroit. He only made one of his four shots. He got nabbed on an illegal defense call. Taj Gibson didn’t do much in this game, but when Henson guarded him, he bullied his way to the offensive glass rather easily.
In a five-minute stretch in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Bucks shaved ten points off the Chicago lead with a lineup featuring the trio of Mike Dunleavy, Beno Udrih, Marquis Daniels. Paired with a shot-blocker or two, this lineup could afford the Bucks a bench advantage similar to the one they held over most NBA teams last year. They are solid pros who generate good ball movement.
Faced with a four-point deficit in the final minute, the Bucks brought the ball up with a change to make it a one-possession game. Training camp invitee Mustapha Farrakahn, who had just gotten into the game for the first time this preseason, missed badly.
Make no mistake: it’s the preseason.