Another elite team on Bulls’ schedule, another loss to explain

The Bulls are 0-10 against the three top teams in the Eastern Conference after the blowout loss in Milwaukee on Tuesday and a combined 0-16 against the top three teams in each conference.

SHARE Another elite team on Bulls’ schedule, another loss to explain

The Bulls are 0-3 against the Heat with one more meeting left.

They are an embarrassing 0-4 against the 76ers.

And now they are 0-3 against the Bucks after the 126-98 pasting at the Fiserv Forum on Tuesday night.

That 0-10 record against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference leaves the Bulls with more questions than answers as the end of the regular season nears.

Then again, maybe the Bucks’ laugher was just a reminder that teams are who they are. Milwaukee is the defending champion, while the Bulls are a second-tier playoff team, hoping that iron sharpens iron . . . at some point.

It doesn’t appear to be this season, as the Bulls (42-30) also are a combined 0-6 against the top three teams in the West.

“You can’t just flush it,’’ guard Alex Caruso said. “This has happened too many times. You gotta learn from it. It’s just something about being on the road where we gotta lock in and get better. We have to have a different mindset going on the road, especially when shots aren’t going in, on a back-to-back, playing against the reigning champs, you gotta know what you’re in for.’’

The Bulls soon found out.

Coach Billy Donovan couldn’t have asked for a better eight-plus minutes to start the game.

Both teams played with urgency and physicality. Even better? The officials let them play with the intensity of a playoff game.

Nikola Vucevic seemed to thrive in that climate, single-handedly keeping the Bulls afloat. After the big man hit a 15-foot jumper with 3:33 left in the first, the score was tied 20-20 and the Bucks called timeout.

Vucevic had scored 11 points at that point, going 4-for-5 from the field, including 3-for-3 from three-point range.

Unfortunately, the Bulls’ bench soon came in, and the bottom immediately fell out.

Milwaukee went on a 13-0 run to close out the first quarter, and then kept the pain coming well into the second, stretching the lead to 26 with 2:50 left in that first half.

The game could have been mailed in at that point, but the Bulls did close out the second quarter by cutting the deficit to 16.

Besides the numbers on the scoreboard, it was obvious how the latest hole against an elite team was dug.

Not only did the Bulls’ offense get stagnant and employ too much isolation — evident by Caruso and Zach LaVine being the only Bulls to register assists in the first 12 minutes — but the Bucks outrebounded the Bulls 28-16 by the half.

“I thought when we came out in that second unit, we really struggled there,’’ Donovan said. “It wasn’t one person, it was collectively that group. You can’t have breakdowns.’’

The Bulls didn’t completely flat-line, as they cut the 16-point deficit to 10 in the first three minutes of the second half, Momentum seemed to be slowly easing its way to the visitors.

Jrue Holiday had other plans, however, hitting a 13-footer and then cutting to the rim for a layup. By the end of the third, the Bucks’ lead was up to 22, and the bus was once again being warmed up.

“It’s frustrating because I think we know how good we can be when we play at our best, play at a high level,’’ Caruso said. “To go out there and not do it a couple times in-a-row [against elite teams], it’s just frustrating.’’

Sixteen total to be exact, but who’s counting?

The Latest
Notes: Closer Adbert Alzolay and corner infielder Jeimer Candelario are nearing returns.
The Braves took the lead on Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki’s two-out error in the eighth inning. The Cubs dropped a game behind the Diamondbacks in the battle for the second wild-card spot and saw their lead over the Marlins for the third and final spot cut to a half-game.
Athanasios Zoyganeles pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
“We’re going to have discussions on the best step forward for the White Sox,” general manager Chris Getz said.