1709376147 Giannis scored 46 points as the Bucks dominated the Bulls

Giannis scored 46 points as the Bucks dominated the Bulls 113-97 in a lively game

Giannis scored 46 points as the Bucks dominated the Bullsplay

Giannis, Pat Beverley and Doc Rivers discuss the Bucks' tough win over the Bulls

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pat Beverley and Doc Rivers discuss the Bucks' tough 113-97 win over the Bulls on March 2, 2024.

CHICAGO – Not every Milwaukee Bucks game under Doc Rivers needs to be a “then and now” comparison from before he took over on Jan. 29 and the present, but if there is an opponent who will consider such a retrospective, then it's Chicago Bulls.

Before Milwaukee's dominant 113-97 win Friday night at the United Center, the Bucks held a nine-point lead over the Bulls in Milwaukee on Nov. 13, leaving many veterans unhappy. Then on November 30, Chicago won in overtime at the United Center because of a controversial decision late in the game not to call a foul, which led to a game-winning three-pointer by the Bulls.

That game in particular stuck with the Bucks, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis both suggested Thursday in Charlotte that the Bulls had beaten them “the last time” – even though they got the most recent win in the series in a tiring game Overtime game on December 11th in Milwaukee.

Which brought her to Friday night.

On paper, Milwaukee should take care of business against a sub-.500 team. Entering the game, the Bucks had won four straight games and had played elite defense over the last month (No. 5 in defensive rating, No. 6 in points allowed per game). The Bulls had lost three of five games and were missing a handful of key players.

BOX score: Bucks 113, Bulls 97

Not only was there no overtime this time, there was no doubt. The Bucks took control early in the game and never let up, limiting an opponent to under 100 points for the fourth straight game.

“I think we've been on a tear lately. “Obviously,” Bucks guard Patrick Beverley said. “We came back from the All-Star break, Giannis stood up and gave us a big message: Stay focused, game by game, don't look to the future. “I think after that conversation we kind of settled in and settled in. Obviously Doc gave us our roles, what he wanted from us. That’s how you have your leader, that’s how you have your coach, you know your role, the game becomes a lot easier.”

Antetokounmpo scored 46 points on 16 of 22 shooting (and 12 of 16 from the free throw line) and had 16 rebounds and six assists. It was his eighth game with at least 40 points this season and first since Feb. 3. He started the game as a facilitator and opened up four assists at the start of the first quarter – but after that, Antetokounmpo increased the aggression and attacked the rim at will.

“I just feel like I have a little bit of energy,” he said. “In the last two games I played about 20 minutes.” Obviously it was a back-to-back. I love playing back to back. I think it kind of calms me down. I'm not in a rush when I play. I just tried to make good plays. When Dame starts the game hot and is making shots, now all the attention shifts to Dame and then you have time to facilitate, attack angles, get Brook, play in the paint, so I was able to do that. But at the end of the day, just another game. I could be aggressive. My teammates helped me, put me in a good position and that was it.”

For good measure, he also threw in a few three-pointers and three midfield jumpers.

Antetokounmpo led five Bucks in double figures and was joined by Damian Lillard (16 points, 7 assists), Pat Beverley (14 points), Brook Lopez (12) and Bobby Portis (11).

Milwaukee (40-21) became the second Eastern Conference team to reach 40 wins. Chicago fell to 28-32.

The Bucks did a great job with Bulls star DeMar DeRozan, whose first shot was a contested airball over Jae Crowder — and it didn't get much better. DeRozan was 0 for 6 from the floor in 18 minutes of the first half and drew just one foul. He didn't force the issue and had seven assists, but the Bulls needed him to put the ball in the basket and Milwaukee simply wouldn't let him beat them.

DeRozan scored 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting and had nine assists in 33 minutes. Before Nikola Vučević was sent off for Flagrant 2, he had 17 points and nine rebounds. Coby White led the Bulls with 22 points.

Bulls center Nikola Vučević sent off for serious fouls

The Bulls center was sent to the showers early after he forearmed AJ Green, knocking the second-year guard hard to the court with 9 minutes, 27 seconds left in the game. Beverley and Portis took an exception and the referees called time to calm things down and ultimately the referees concluded that Vučević's foul was worth a Flagrant 2 and an automatic sending off.

“I was trying to get downhill and make a play,” Green said of the play. “It really is.” I’m glad “BP” and Pat “Bev” had my back. It's basketball. I'm fine, man. Everything is good. Everything is good.”

Beverley added: I just think basketball is a physical game. I didn't know how big the game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls was until tonight. But that's the game. It is played physically. You will be hit. I like being the guy that goes out there and hits people instead of being hit. That's it.

It was the latest escalation of tempers that had flared all night as Bulls center Andre Drummond and forward DeMar DeRozan had fouls checked for hostile acts. DeRozan was given a Flagrant 1 grade for running over Portis and pushing him in the open court after Portis collected a rebound over him and knocked him to the ground.

“We definitely have instigators,” Doc Rivers said. “But it's only good if you can do it without getting involved in it. “I thought it was right on the edge tonight and then we backed down. I was glad that this (Vučević) review lasted an hour because it allowed everyone to somehow regain their composure. You don’t want that either.”

And those were just the fouls that were called.

Lillard took an elbow to the head from Vučević and Ayo Dosunmu sent Beverley flying with a jab. Alex Caruso, Drummond, Beverley and Portis all had moments of physical exertion. DeRozan and Caruso received technical fouls for some of their words after the game.

“Bully? “We are surrounded by bullies,” Antetokounmpo said of his team. “Hey man, it feels good.” I don't want to disrespect the game in any way, but I feel like I have a lot of passionate players, from Bobby, from Pat, from Jae, from AJ, from Beasley, from everyone . Bach. We have passion within us and want to win. And sometimes, you know, we push and push. Or be more physical than usual. But it's good to have a team like that. We’re kind of trying to change the narrative here.”

TV PROGRAM: WMLW will televise 10 Milwaukee Bucks games for free over the air

Have you noticed the Bucks' rotation changes?

The Bucks changed their rotations slightly on Friday, with not only Lillard once again playing all 12 minutes of the first quarter, but also Lopez playing 11 minutes and Malik Beasley 10. That meant Antetokounmpo was the best starter available in the second quarter, and The Bucks opted for a zone for about the first four minutes, with Portis, Beverley, Danilo Gallinari and Pat Connaughton switching to Antetokounmpo.

Although the Bulls started the second quarter well with five straight points to cut their lead to 33-29, the zone then slowed things down and they didn't score another field until the 6:20 mark – a span of five minutes Play goal.

Rivers then started for over nine minutes to open the second half before Antetokounmpo, Beasley and Crowder were substituted with 2:48 left and the Bucks led 80-66. However, Lillard and Lopez played the entire frame, helping the Bulls to an 82-72 lead after the third period.

The effort also led to an interesting lineup early in the fourth quarter, with AJ Green joining Beverley, Connaughton, Portis and Antetokounmpo. But that group more than doubled its 10-point lead with 6:48 left with a 17-0 run for a 101-76 lead.

“We made the decision to play AJ in the second half because they were small and not with the big lineup we had been using,” Doc Rivers said. “Because I thought the big lineup in the first half was just like that. Every time they got fouled, which earned them the penalty. So put another shooter on the floor and clear the floor space. We turned around. Normally it's Dame who comes out first, I just thought Giannis did it. Sometimes you just ride that hand.”

Green scored seven points in nine minutes.

“I would say AJ Green,” Beverley said of what worked with that grouping in the fourth quarter. “AJ came in, he provided a spark. “I think he got a pindown, hit a midrange, came back and hit a great three-pointer, which kind of separated us. Defensively, you can obviously use Bobby Portis on the blitz – I think he had about five deflections in this quarter and two or three steals in this quarter. The two of them definitely.”

Green, on the other hand, praised the strong team defense.

“I mean, the only way to do that is with stops,” he said. “We got stops and I think we just played well together. “We made a great shot every time. And you know, it always helps when Pat gets hot too. Someone goes for a short run alone. Basically just playing together.”

Five numbers

3 Official reviews of hard fouls by the Bulls.

7 Games the Bucks have held an opponent to 110 points or fewer over a 15-game stretch since January 29th. They have done this four times in the last 46 games.

8-3 Bucks record for the second night in a row. Milwaukee still has three more consecutive games on the schedule.

23 Games this season in which Antetokounmpo scored 30 or more points while shooting 60% or better from the field, a league high. The last time a player achieved this was Orlando's Shaquille O'Neal in 1994-95.

489 The Bucks' combined regular-season and postseason victories in games played by Antetokounmpo are the most in franchise history. Antetokounmpo is in his 11th season. Hall of Famer Sidney Moncrief's teams won 488 games from 1979 to 1989.

Khris Middleton is close to returning for the Bucks

The three-time All-Star sprained his left ankle in the first quarter of Milwaukee's loss to Phoenix on Feb. 6 and was ruled out for Friday's game against the Bulls.

He has now missed the last 10 games, but Rivers said before the game that Middleton did a good job over three days in Milwaukee.

“He’s doing great,” Rivers said.

The Bucks have Saturday and Sunday off before hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, but Rivers wasn't sure if Middleton would be able to play again for that game.

“We’ll see,” Rivers said. “To be honest, I don’t know yet. We haven't talked about it yet. I think he’s really close.”

The 32-year-old Middleton played in 43 of the Bucks' first 51 games, missing a game in consecutive sets seven times. He missed the November 26 game against Portland due to Achilles tendon soreness.

Middleton, who re-signed with the Bucks in the offseason, must play in 19 of the remaining 21 regular-season games to receive a $1.5 million bonus.

Why did the Bucks game start so late?

Hall of Fame basketball journalist Sam Smith, who currently writes for the Bulls website, had a simple question for Doc Rivers ahead of Friday's schedule release at 9 p.m.:

“Do you think ESPN knows this is the central time zone?” Smith asked.

Rivers laughed.

“NO!” he said. “Nine o'clock. This is our second. Two games on Friday at 9 o'clock.”

The Bucks head coach said there was a conversation with his coaching staff about what to do with the players throughout the day Friday after arriving from Charlotte early in the morning – but there was no good answer.

NBC Chicago reporter KC Johnson then quipped, “The headline is clearly that you have no appeal at ESPN.”

Rivers laughed again at the reference to his former employer and the network responsible for the late start.

“None,” he said. “Zero. Zero. I probably have less.”

The game actually started around 9:15 p.m

The good news for the Bucks is that there are no longer scheduled CT starts at 9 p.m.