Note-A-Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks December 15, 2016: Bulls Forget Fundamentals, Fall to Bucks 108-97.

After an embarrassing loss against Tom Thibodeau and the Minnesota Timberwolves last time out, the Bulls looked to turn the corner against their rivals up north, the Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately, the Bulls were no match for a team that is comprised of everything they want to be; young, long and athletic. From the opening tip, the size and athleticism was apparent for the Milwaukee Bucks as Chicago native Jabari Parker and the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo showed just how efficient and exciting the Bucks could be. A future invested in the up-tempo style and shot-creating playmakers appears to be a good route to develop Milwaukee into a contender. However, the Bulls continue to fall behind at addressing the need for true basketball players like the Bucks twosome, and continue to draft athletes, that have lately lacked the necessary basketball skill to go along with it.

  • The Bulls got off to a slow start in the 1st quarter that was emphasized by a missed alley-oop to Jimmy Butler, followed by the speed and length (a theme of the game) of Milwaukee with a Jabari Parker slam dunk to finish the sequence.
  • The Bulls came out very careless with the basketball and by the 9:19 mark in the 2nd quarter; they already had 9 turnovers, which converted into 14 Milwaukee points.  The lack of a true point guard continues to hurt as Rajon Rondo finished the night with 5 points, and 3 turnovers. In analyzing this team I have yet to figure out the Bulls plan in signing Rondo in the first place, as he continues to be a tough fit into their lineup and cannot jumpstart the offense when they need it most.
  • The Bucks missed a tremendous amount of easy lay-ups in the 1st half thanks to misses by big free agent-signing Greg Monroe but the Bulls could not take advantage and found themselves down 64-45 by halftime.
  • When the Bulls cross half court into the offensive zone this season, I have yet to see an actual offensive plan. While I usually only listen to Bulls’ analyst Stacey King for a great sound byte, he actually made a very valid point this evening. Tonight’s focus shifted to the play of Doug McDermott. King talked about how the Bulls continue to put McDermott in the game, yet they do not run plays to get him open. For a player like McDermott, consistency is key. If the Bulls know that he is more of a shooter vs. a shot-creator, then they need to create a package to emphasize that. The Bulls continue to get in the offensive zone and play four corners with the ball, hoping someone eventually gets open. There are rarely any clear cuts to the basket, set plays to utilize specialized players like McDermott, and they are left with a last second effort pick and roll and a forced shot.
  • The Bulls inability to take advantage of a player like McDermott is not unfamiliar. The similar lack of understanding of how to use Kyle Korver comes to mind. While Korver was always a reliable shooter, in  my opinion, he never truly lived up to the Bulls’ fans expectations. But with an offense that barely had any scorers, and lack of a game plan for a specialized catch and shoot player, he suffered. Since Korver left the Bulls after the 2012 season, his playing time increased and his 3-point percentage increased from .435 during his final year as a Bull to  .457 the next year, and .492 in 2014, one of his better years as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. He only averaged 2 more points per game as a Hawk, but his efficiency is what mattered. He was able to be utilized in a way the Bulls could never figure out. This same issue is plaguing the team now, and McDermott, who they traded up to acquire, is now a shell of the shooter he could be. He is never going to be an all-around two-way basketball player, and if the Bulls admit that and begin to understand how to implement him better into their offense, they will reap the benefits.
  • It seems as though there cannot be a recap I write without mentioning Nikola Mirotic. In a game in which big-bodied skill players were the biggest obstacles for the Bulls, the 6 foot 10 Mirotic never saw the floor. I think the Bulls are unfortunately starting to understand that Mirotic may not be the all-around player they thought they drafted. Just like McDermott, Mirotic is becoming categorized as a specialized player. If this is the reality, the Bulls then need to adapt to take full advantage of what he can offer. If he is supposed to be a lights-out shooter, then design plays for him to get open, like the plays that are needed for McDermott. If the Bulls do not address altering their approach and game plan revolving around these two players, their lack of production will continue. The Bulls have nothing to lose if they actively try to incorporate McDermott and Mirotic into their offense. The question becomes if they in fact know how to do that.
  • Again the 3-point percentage comparison was not a contest tonight as the Bucks shot 55 % from behind the arc, while the Bulls shot 26.3 % going 5-19. Early on in this game, Jabari Parker was 3-3 from 3-point land, the team was 7-8 and the Bulls could not find the basket.
  • The ghost of Tom Thibodeau’s past continued to haunt the Bulls tonight, as defense came at a premium. If the Bulls lose a game, an over-reaction is not needed when dissecting every play. However, when fundamentals are forgotten, as they were tonight, there is cause for concern. Defensive switching continued to be a problem tonight, as more often than not the Bulls were late getting around a screen, late covering their man, or double teamed when it was not necessary, leaving a skilled Bucks team to find the open man left alone for the easy basket. If the Bucks can move the ball successfully through a defense behind 39 year-old NBA lifer Jason Terry, your defense has a problem. The breakdowns were many in tonight’s matchup.
  • Because of the lack of defense, the Bucks were able to get a tremendous amount of shots off. While their biggest lead was 27, at around the 7:42 mark in the 3rd, the Bucks had 18 more shots than the Bulls. 18 more scoring opportunities. The lack of defensive points to how that staggering stat was even possible.
  • A rare bright spot again for the Bulls is the play of Cristiano Felicio. While the stats may not reflect it, his 7 points and 10 rebounds continue to impress as he is beginning to make himself into a player to look out for in the post.
  • An encouraging takeaway for Bucks fans is the two-headed monster of Jabari Parker (28 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (30 points). These players have tremendous skill, size and basketball awareness. Seeing them both healthy together was exciting, and especially after Parker’s injury it was great to see him make the consistent high-level scoring plays, that made him the #1 recruit out of Simeon and Duke. I never thought I would tell the Bulls to take a page out of the Bucks playbook, but they have found a formula in drafting incredible basketball talent in both Parker and Antetokounmpo.
  • Up Next: The Bulls will get a second chance against the Bucks as they finish the home and home tomorrow night at the UC at 7pm.
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