Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports
Kamil Krzaczynski - USA Today Sports

Bulls slide continues with fourth straight loss


by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls (39-25) are entering a gut check portion of their season where it is now or never when it comes to proving themselves. After winning their first two games out of the break to remain tied for first in the Eastern Conference, things have gone south the past week with the Bulls stuck in the middle of a four-game losing streak.

Their most recent defeat came against the defending NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks (39-25), who survived the Bulls for the second time this season. Milwaukee has dominated this series over the past few years, and it has continued this season. However, unlike in seasons past, the Bulls have been competitive against the Bucks showing how close they are to being considered one of the best in the East.

In their first meeting, the Bulls gave the Bucks all they could handle and more before falling at 94-90. In that game, you didn't have Zach Lavine, and Grayson Allen committed a hard foul on Alex Caruso, which may have ended his season. Expecting another intense matchup with the potential of things getting chippy, the Bulls found themselves tied at the end of the first quarter before trailing by four at the half.

The Bulls came out on fire in the second half, not only taking a third-quarter lead, but pushing that lead to seven points heading into the final 12 minutes. Expecting the Bucks to come right back, Milwaukee managed to tie things up midway through the last quarter and remained within striking distance the rest of the way. As all good teams do, the Bucks found a way to win as they withstood the Bulls 118-112 and overtook the Bulls in the Central Division with the win.

As usual, the Bucks offense starts and stops with Giannis Antetokounmpo as the former NBA MVP had a fantastic night. Given his matchup nightmare status against the Bulls, Giannis went off for a game-high 34 points while adding 16 rebounds in the process. As good as the Bucks have been this season, they have struggled at times as the lack of support around Giannis has been evident.

That was not the case on Friday, as the Bucks had plenty of support on the floor. Jrue Holiday not only played lockdown defense on the defensive end of the floor, but went 10-20 from the field, including 3-6 from distance as he added 26 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists. Kris Middleton also did his part in the victory chipping in with 22 points to give the Bucks three 20 point scorers. Add in 12 points and seven boards from former Bull Bobby Portis, and the Bucks had a strong cast of contributors to make things hard on Chicago.

Even with the Bucks flexing their muscles on the offensive end, you have to credit this Bulls team for the fight they showed. This has been an issue all season for them as they have not been able to beat the best teams in the league. Keep in mind they have been playing shorthanded since the first week of the season, but at some point, they need to pick up some of these wins to be taken seriously in the East.

To consistently compete, the Bulls need their guard duo of Lavine and DeMar DeRozan to continue leading the way. That was precisely the case again last night, with Lavine going 13-26 to lead the way for Chicago with 30 points while DeRozan added 29 of his own. After setting an NBA record a week ago, DeRozan has been mirrored in a rare shooting slump the last few games going a rough 11-30 in this one as he had to earn those 29 points.

Like most teams, the Bulls are starting to form their own big three as Nikola Vucevic got in on the action. His 19 points not only ranked third on the team, but he held up well against Giannis with nine rebounds as those three provided the brunt of the Bulls offense. Javonte Green moved from starter to bench in place of Tristan Thompson and provided nine points for the Bulls, but they couldn't generate much more than that, falling 118-112.

Not only was this the fourth straight loss for Chicago, but it does hurt this team in many more ways. They have now gone from first to fourth in the Eastern Conference and have fallen to second in the Central. To make things worse, the surging Philadelphia Sixers are on the horizon and have had the Bulls number this season. This is not the time to be playing bad basketball, and the Bulls need to fix it quickly.

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