Bulls lose to Bucks as all the tough talk seemingly falls on deaf ears
There were some strong feelings about what Grayson Allen did to Alex Caruso when the Bulls and Bucks met six weeks ago, and while Allen did catch an elbow in the head on Friday, the game went on without significant incident. Besides, the Bulls have bigger issues now, like a four-game skid.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer isn’t big into social media. He admittedly doesn’t get caught up in NBA rumors or chatter outside his own locker room.
So when he was asked Friday about comments from new Bull Tristan Thompson about the Alex Caruso-Grayson Allen incident in January — in which Allen’s flagrant foul on Caruso resulted in the Bulls guard fracturing his wrist, requiring surgery — Budenholzer had a puzzled look on his face.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,’’ he said. “It didn’t register with me.’’
He and the Bucks weren’t factoring tough talk into their first visit to the United Center this season. This was a business trip.
And in the final few minutes against the Bulls on Friday night, business was good for the defending NBA champions.
Thanks to Jrue Holiday’s late-game performance on both ends of the floor, the Bulls (39-25) fell 118-112 to the Bucks for their fourth straight loss. They’re now 1-4 since the All-Star break and have slipped to fourth in the Eastern Conference behind the Heat, 76ers and Bucks, against whom the Bulls are a combined 0-8 this season.
“I thought we really competed and were physical, tried to match [what they do] as well as we could,” coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “It’s a starting point.”
As for payback on Allen for the flagrant-2 that still has Caruso sidelined, the Bulls’ Derrick Jones Jr. did put an elbow in Allen’s head on a drive to the basket, earning him a flagrant foul of his own. But the game wasn’t the “chippy” spectacle that Thompson was talking about 24 hours earlier.
“You take out one of my dogs like that we’re going to have issues,” Thompson had said Thursday.
The Bucks went to the free-throw line 33 times, the Bulls just 11.
“Our inability to get stops and play against a set defense, and then the fouling,” Donovan said. “If someone takes that many more free throws than you do, it’s hard to stay in the game.”
Although fans at the United Center booed Allen anytime his name was called or he touched the ball, the Bulls’ agenda from tipoff appeared to be doing all they could to win, not to exact revenge on Allen.
Midway through the third quarter and into the fourth, it looked like they would, especially after one of the more vicious dunks of the season, as Jones went over and through Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“I’m not even going to lie, honestly — I don’t think anyone can jump with me in the world,” Jones said of the slam.
He then claimed he has had better.
Just when the UC was in a frenzy, however, Holiday took over. Not only did the versatile guard do a great job of shutting down DeMar DeRozan in the fourth quarter — DeRozan went just 2-for-9 — but he also scored 16 of his 26 points.
DeRozan finished with 29 for the Bulls, while Zach LaVine led the team with 30. Ante-tokounmpo scored a game-high 34.
The Bulls still have two more meetings with the Bucks and Allen this season, but it sounded like the animosity was over, as far as Jones was concerned.
“I’m not a dirty player,’’ Jones said. “What happened in Milwaukee, we didn’t like it, but I’m not going to go out there and try and take a man out.”