The Milwaukee Bucks had been riding high lately, but that all came crashing down in what many expected to be an easy win for the team.
Visiting the rivaling Chicago Bulls, who were without Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, the Bucks learned that they can take no opponent too lightly. Despite missing their two best players, Chicago battled from start to finish. It looked like the Bucks were set to win it in regulation, but Alex Caruso knocked down a huge 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
The Bulls outlasted the Bucks with a final score of 120-113, and there were plenty of issues on display on Milwaukee's side of things.
The most concerning stat from the Milwaukee Bucks' gutting loss to Chicago Bulls
One of the biggest issues from this matchup was the difference in bench production. The Bulls got 31 points from their bench, and all of the players added together were a +64. Meanwhile, the bench on Milwaukee's end totaled 21 points and was a -31. There have been questions about the second unit all season, and ugly stats like these are incredibly troubling and concerning.
Outside of the final quarter of a comeback victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, Bobby Portis has been awful lately. He tallied just four points on 2-of-8 field goal shooting against the Bulls, having missed a handful of shots that would typically be his bread and butter. He's the head of the snake for this bench, and they need him to find his mojo. His energy and production can help this team out.
Portis was a -14, the second-worst mark on the team behind only another reserve in Cameron Payne, who was a -20. Payne shot just 2-of-6 from the floor to tally six points. Andre Jackson Jr. gave the Bucks a big spark before exiting with back tightness, but he was still a -8. MarJon Beauchamp was the only reserve with a positive rating, having finished as a +11, but even he struggled.
The Bucks need more from the bench. Damian Lillard and Malik Beasley both played over 40 minutes, while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez were close as well. A major part of that has to do with the Bucks not getting enough from their reserves, and it can be hard on the starters. Hopefully this can serve as a wake-up call for the second unit moving forward.
This cannot become the norm.
The bench is not solely to blame for the loss, as ugly nights from Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton did not help. After scoring 17 in the first half, Lillard has just one point in the second half. Middleton shot a grueling 3-of-10 from the floor and scored just nine points in 26 minutes. Combine this with the struggles of the bench, and it's a recipe for disaster, which is exactly what happened.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points), Malik Beasley (19 points), and Brook Lopez (20 points) did their best to try and will this team to another clutch victory, but it wasn't enough in the end. An incredibly uncharacteristic performance from the ever-clutch Lillard late hindered this team, as he had a pair of head-scratching turnovers late in overtime.
Ultimately, it's an ugly loss to a shorthanded team. However, there's no time to dwell on it. All the team can do now is learn from it, and it must serve as a wake-up call, particularly for the bench. That group is banged up now with Jae Crowder and Pat Connaughton out, but this unit has to embrace a "next man up" mentality and produce consistently.