NBA-best Bucks take on new-look Bulls
The Milwaukee Bucks will look to improve upon their NBA-best record when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.
At 45-14, Milwaukee has a slim lead over the Toronto Raptors for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks have won four in a row and 10 of 11 as they prepare to face the Bulls about 90 miles south of their home court.
Meanwhile, Chicago (16-44) is playing some of its best basketball of the season. The Bulls have won three games in a row, which marks a season high, and hope to continue their success thanks in large part to the recent acquisition of Otto Porter Jr.
The former Washington Wizards guard is averaging 17.8 points and shooting 54.5 percent from the field -- including 51.9 percent from 3-point range -- in six games since Chicago acquired him for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis on Feb. 6. But Porter exited Saturday's game because of a strained muscle in his left leg, putting his status for Monday's matchup into question.
Bulls coach Jim Boylen said Porter has increased the team's toughness since his arrival.
"I think he takes pride in his work," Boylen said in comments published by the Chicago Sun-Times. "He's alert and attentive and respectful to what we're trying to do. And he has been committed to it since Day 1.
"I've been around trades where guys come in and take a step back to see what's going on. When I was in Indiana, David West did the same thing. He jumped right in, man. 'This is how we're going to do it. I'm all in.' "
Milwaukee knows all about star power thanks to 24-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo, already a three-time All-Star forward. The player commonly known as "the Greek Freak" is averaging 27.2 points and 12.7 rebounds per game this season.
Another Bucks player will be familiar to Bulls fans in attendance. Nikola Mirotic returned from a calf strain last week to join Milwaukee, who acquired him from the New Orleans Pelicans on Feb. 7 in a three-team trade. Mirotic, who spent his first three-plus seasons in Chicago, is averaging 12.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in two games with the Bucks.
"The way the guys played, it's exactly how I like," Mirotic said to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel after making his Bucks debut. "I like to spread the floor, run the floor. It's just beautiful basketball.
"With this team, I need to bring everything I can. They put a lot of trust in me. They know what I can do offensively, defensively. I can play both sides."
This is the fourth and final game of the regular season between the teams. Milwaukee has won the first three contests, including a 123-104 win at home Nov. 16, a 116-113 win at home Nov. 28, and a 112-99 win on the road Feb. 11.
Chicago is 7-23 on its home court this season. Milwaukee is 20-9 on the road.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 24, 2019