The Bulls nearly give up another huge lead to the Bucks before pulling away in the fourth to get their longest road trip of the year off to a good start Wednesday night.
In what looked like another big collapse in the making, the Bulls held an 18 point lead at halftime. The lead was cut to 10 within five minutes in the third quarter, but a number of big shots by the suddenly awoken Joakim Noah (6-11, 12 points, 12 boards, 4 assists) helped stem the tide against the charging Ersan Ilyasova (6-18, 18 points, 7 rebounds) and Brandon Jennings (6-18, 15 points, 8 assists). The fourth quarter saw the Bulls stretch their lead back to 17 before cruising to a deceptively easy victory over a team that has scrapped all season long. The Bucks were without Larry Sanders, while the Bulls were missing Carlos Boozer, snapping his 100+ games started streak.
The best player on the floor tonight for Milwaukee was Samuel Dalembert, who stepped in for the ailing Sanders and finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks, scoring half of his points in the opening quarter, when the Bulls couldn't seem to box him out to save their lives. His impact was lessened over the rest of the game, partly through Joakim Noah waking up a bit and the Bulls in general just rebounding better as a team. Taj Gibson, who started in place of Boozer, had 14 points and 9 rebounds of his own, shooting 7-12 from the field on the evening. He also added 2 points and 2 assists in his second start of the year, his first in place of Boozer. Luol Deng started slow as well, before finishing with 12 points and a team high 13 rebounds in 40 minutes of play. He shot 6-18 from the field and added 5 assists in his second game back from a hamstring injury.
The real story of this game was the continued play of Jimmy Butler to go along with the successful trolling of Brandon Jennings by Nate Robinson. Butler had 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals in 27 minutes of play, going 8-12 from the field, while Robinson had 14 points in the first quarter and 24 for the game (9-11 from the floor). NateRob got under Jennings' skin on multiple occasions, culminating in the latter's ejection in the fourth quarter, the final nail in the coffin for a Bucks team that fell to 24-19 on the season, third place in the Central Division.
Player O' the Game: Nate Robinson (24 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 3 steals. 9-11 shooting, 2-3 from 3, 4-4 from the line).
Jimmy Butler was great but the day belonged to Nate Robinson who continues to bank in some of the luckiest looking shots imaginable. I'd attribute these shots to skill if I didn't know that within two weeks he'll be back to shooting 2-10 and generally sabotaging the Bulls' entire game plan, but I won't look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially one who got his first dunk of the season (and his first since 2011, apparently) during tonight's game. The Bulls top 3 scorers are all normally bench players, and Nate was the best of the lot. We'll see how long this lasts. The Bulls are still under .500 against current playoff teams, and the schedule is rife with them from here on out.
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