Things get heated as Bulls fall to Bucks in their first showdown of season
It was an ugly game epitomized by a third-quarter flagrant-2 foul on Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen, who all but threw Alex Caruso to the ground and was ejected from the game.
To call the showdown Friday against the Bucks ugly would be underselling it.
If the Bulls had any chance to win, however, it would have to be one of those grimy January games that only a defensive-minded coach like Billy Donovan could embrace.
But the Bulls lost 94-90, so he can hold off on those hugs.
So how low did the first meeting of the season between the Bucks and Bulls sink? It would be hard to ask Grayson Allen, especially after he was ejected.
With 5:45 left in the third quarter, Alex Caruso went up for a layup and was met by Allen, who appeared to swipe aggressively at the ball with one hand but tried sending Caruso into Row 3 with the other. The flagrant-2 foul saw Allen exit stage left and seemed apropos in an already muddy game.
“It was really bad,’’ Donovan said. “For him to take him down like that, you could end his career. I hope the league takes a look at this. Really dangerous play. He has a history of doing that, all the way back to college.’’
The Bulls shot 31-for-85 (36.5%) from the field and 7-for-38 (18.4%) from three-point range, while the Bucks went 34-for-89 (38.2%) from the field and 6-for-31 (19.4%) from three.
Caruso, who’s 6-5, actually spent some time guarding 6-11 superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the end, the Bulls (28-16) just didn’t have the size up front and the experience in the backcourt.
Donovan’s young backcourt of Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White looked overwhelmed in the nationally televised game.
It’s the first time the two have played poorly while filling in for Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine.
At least Dosunmu recognized his poor shooting and tried to make an impact in other ways, finishing with five rebounds and six assists.
“I have a pretty good relationship with [Illini coach] Brad Underwood, and when the draft took place, I spoke to Brad, and Brad never even talked about [Dosunmu’s] game,’’ Donovan said. “All he talked about was his makeup. Is he a worker, how is he going to handle adversity, how is he going to handle setbacks, how is he going to handle a role, how is he going to be as a teammate? Those are the things that ultimately make great players, besides the talent. If people thought he was this unbelievable talent, he would have gone in the first round, and probably if the draft was done over again with the way he has played, he would go in the first round.
“When I spoke to Brad, all he talked about was his habits, his competitiveness, what a teammate he was. When you start hearing those types of things, that’s what gets you excited, where you feel like, ‘You know what, we got a really good player here.’ Ayo has tried to earn his way.’’
And was still trying to.
But for Milwaukee, this isn’t a roster looking to earn its way. The Bucks are looking to repeat as champs.
Antetokounmpo gave the Bucks a three-point lead with 7:12 left, and Milwaukee did everything it could to take control, increasing the lead to seven with 2:32 left.
The Bulls, however, had one last fight in them, cutting the deficit to two with 1:10 left.
After winning a jump ball, DeMar DeRozan had the chance to play hero, but he missed a three-pointer with 23.3 seconds left. Khris Middleton made two free throws with 15.8 seconds left to put the visitors on ice.
DeRozan finished with 35 points, but White went 3-for-15 from the field and 0-for-9 from three-point range.
“The last two games, we’ve really battled and scraped,’’ Donovan said. “That’s the disposition we’re going to have to have.’’