The Milwaukee Bucks suffered a nightmarish Game 2 against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday.
There have been reckless reversals. There were defensive breakdowns. Key players were injured. There was an inability to slow down Bulls star DeMar DeRozan.
It all added up to a frustrating 114-110 loss for Milwaukee at the Fiserv Forum with DeRozan’s 41 points helping Chicago even the best of seven series at 1-1.
THE SCORE OF THE BOX: Bulls 114, males 110
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Game 3 takes place Friday night at the United Center in Chicago.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 33 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the Bulls from earning their first playoff victory in five years.
“We have to play better,” said Antetokounmpo. “Execute better. Have more fun. I don’t feel like we’re enjoying the game as much as we can.”
The Bucks looked bad from the start. They had three turnovers, a missed three-pointer and an errant jumper as the Bulls took a 9-0 lead.
Milwaukee rebounded on 2 three-pointers from Wesley Matthews to tie the game at 16-16, but Chicago led, 29-28, after the first quarter.
The second quarter didn’t look much prettier for the Bucks. After committing 21 turnovers in Game 1, the Bucks also struggled to deal with the ball again. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton combined for eight errors in the first half.
Milwaukee finished with 15 turnovers, including six by Holiday. Chicago scored 19 points on those errors.
“Thank you Chicago,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Especially the first ones. Hands and activity. Getting deflections. Creating turnovers. We have to be sharper.
“Clearer with our spacing. I think we need to filter better. Just be better with our passes. Then sometimes as the game was going just a bit fast. Needed better spacing. Better decisions .”
Holiday also committed his third foul late in the second quarter and key Bucks bench player Bobby Portis was lost for the game with an abrasion to his right eye after being elbowed while battling for a rebound with Chicago’s Tristan Thompson.
The Bulls pushed their lead to 63-49 at the break. Milwaukee’s only first-half highlight was Antetokounmpo passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 1,692 points as the franchise’s playoff leader.
With Bucks fans still pondering what went wrong, the Bulls took an 18-point advantage early in the third quarter.
Milwaukee came back to 81-78 with a 15-2 run highlighted by a four-point play from Middleton.
The Bucks let DeRozan score all four points in the final 33 seconds of the third quarter to take an 87-80 lead. DeRozan had 13 points in the quarter.
Chicago added the first nine points in the fourth quarter.
“We’re not done,” Budenholzer said. “We had a good run. Then in the last minute, minute and a half of the third quarter, I thought we could have been better. Then coming out in the fourth quarter, another big swing.”
To make matters worse for Milwaukee, Middleton injured his left leg and went to the locker room with 6:49 remaining. He didn’t come back. After the game, Budenholzer said Middleton suffered a sprained MCL and the team would know more about his condition after an MRI on Thursday.
The Bucks pushed to close 102-94, but the Bulls’ Zach LaVine made a three-pointer into the right corner at 4:56.
Milwaukee had another run to close the gap to 107-102 on a Holiday three-pointer. But then Holiday missed a shot from close range and Chicago’s Nikola Vucevic hit a three-point shot with 2:30 to play.
The Bucks’ last gasp came when Brook Lopez converted a three-point play with just under a minute left. Milwaukee, however, let Chicago grab two offensive rebounds and DeRozan rushed for a layup for a 114-109 advantage that sealed the win.
“I think we’ve been in a lot of situations where we’re grabbing those rebounds or it’s going our way,” Holiday said. “I feel like most of the time when we’re in this situation we win and you’re not going to win them all. It’s just something you have to learn from.”
The Bucks finished 20 for 31 (64.5%) on free throws. Without Portis for most of the game, the Milwaukee bench contributed only eight points.
DeRozan shot 16 of 31 with most of his damage in his favorite midrange area.
“He just picked up a pace,” Holiday said. “He kind of has that pull-up between his legs that he does when he starts to start and he’s had a few of them. I just got into a rhythm.
“Up the key, around the free throw line. Take those shots and take 30. At some point you’re going to have a rhythm. I think we did a good job, but I think we can do a little bit better. Just be aggressive. Make it difficult for him. Make him really uncomfortable.