NBA Basketball

Bucks back home, looking to heat up vs. Bulls

The championship-hopeful Milwaukee Bucks have lost three of five to open the season. Last season, it took the Bucks nine games to lose for the third time, and before they lost again, they raced to a remarkable 24-3 start.

"We need to be more consistent. We need to be better," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "But I think there's positives. We've played well for big stretches of games. We've just got to extend those."

A new year brings hope for rebirth, and the Bucks' quest continues Friday against the visiting Chicago Bulls.

Despite squandering a 14-point third-quarter lead Wednesday -- and with it the chance to earn a back-to-back road sweep of the reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat -- the Bucks remain optimistic about a swift bounce-back. After all, they certainly were on the mark against the Heat just 24 hours earlier when they routed them by 47 points.

One night after drilling an NBA-record 29 3-pointers to rout Miami, Milwaukee shot just 16-for-41 from deep in Wednesday's 119-108 loss.

After entering the game with torrid shooting percentages of 59.2 and 57.6, respectively, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton combined to go 7-for-30 from the floor with 21 points Wednesday. Middleton scored a season-low eight points after going for a team-high 25 Tuesday.

Still, the Bucks remained in the game despite scoring just 17 points in the fourth quarter. Giannis Antekokounmpo tallied a triple-double of 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

"The beauty of this team is even though they were struggling, we were in the game," Milwaukee's Donte DiVincenzo said of Wednesday's 119-108 defeat. "It wasn't a blowout. We had the lead. We have a deep roster and we have guys who can make plays. Just because one or two guys aren't making shots, it's just time for somebody else to step up. We're not going to harp on if one guy is missing shots, we're going down the drain. We have a deep team and guys are so unselfish."

Coming off a sweep of a two-game sweep at the Washington Wizards that concluded with Thursday's 133-130 win, the Bulls can attest to depth of their own. Chicago had seven scorers in double figures in both games, a feat that especially stood out Thursday, as the team was without four players due to the NBA's health and safety protocol amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan said late scratches Ryan Arcidiacono, Chandler Hutchison, Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky would not travel to Milwaukee with the team.

"My guess is, yes, it's going to go on here for a period of time," Donovan said. "How long? I'm really unsure of that. I think the daily testing helps bring some clarity to where guys are at."

Otto Porter Jr. (28 points, 12 rebounds) and Coby White (16 points, 10 assists) posted double-doubles for the Bulls.

Reserve Daniel Gafford, who contributed 15 points, said the key for the Bulls' bench was "really just staying ready. Being patient. Being professional."

After playing just once at Fiserv Forum in the first week of the season, the Bucks will begin a five-game homestand Friday.

"Got to figure ourselves out as a team," Antetokounmpo said. "We're going to be consistent. ... At the end of the day, we're going to play our game, going to find open shots and hope they fall."

--Field Level Media

Updated December 31, 2020

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