10 observations: DeRozan leads unlikely comeback vs. Bucks


The Chicago Bulls trailed by 11 points with less than two-and-a-half minutes to play in Wednesday's home matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Improbably, they staged a double-digit comeback in that span to eventually win 119-113 in overtime, moving their record against their rival to 2-0 on the season.

Here are 10 observations:

1. Any analysis of this one must start with the torrid fourth quarter comeback the Bulls staged, from down 15 early in the frame — and 11 with 2:18 to play — to tied 106-106 with 7.8 seconds to play.

That run started at the defensive end, where the Bulls held the Bucks to just two points (on a Giannis Antetokounmpo driving layup) in the final 3:19 of regulation. There were misses of clean looks in that span, to be sure. But the Bulls also buckled down multiple times for enormous stops — DeRozan stealing an inbounds pass from Antetokounmpo to spark a game-tying Ayo Dosunmu dunk, then Patrick Williams plus a crowd of defenders forcing an Antetokounmpo travel on the ensuing possession, spring to mind.

2. Also deserving of credit for that run were:

  • Zach LaVine, who despite minimal involvement in overtime made a key 3-pointer and two free throws in the final two minutes.
  • Nikola Vučević, who bounced back from early-second-half foul trouble and a 2-for-8 start to also drill two important triples in the final frame.
  • Williams, who in addition to solid defense provided a pull-up midrange jumper with 48 seconds to play that kept the Bulls within four.
  • And Billy Donovan, who continued his run of key challenge wins to overturn a DeRozan blocking foul that could have been an and-one opportunity for Antetokounmpo to put the Bucks up 102-88 with 4:58 to play.

3. Overtime began tenuously, with a missed 3-pointer and layup by Williams, then a turnover, as the Bucks pulled ahead 110-106. It was reminiscent to the start of the fourth quarter, when the Bulls missed their first six shots and committed two turnovers in the opening four minutes as the Bucks pulled ahead by 15 points with a 12-0 run.

But the Bulls were given new life when Grayson Allen missed a wide open 3-pointer that could have given Milwaukee a seven-point lead, and instead led to a DeRozan layup at the other end. A few empty possessions later, Vučević again nailed a critical 3-pointer to give the Bulls a 111-110 lead.

4. From there, DeRozan drew free throws that put the Bulls ahead by three points, then answered a Bobby Portis 3-pointer with a midrange jumper that reestablished their advantage. On the ensuing possession, he sank four more foul shots that iced the game.

DeRozan was brilliant, scoring 42 points (10 in overtime alone) on 15-for-25 shooting and notching 10 rebounds and five assists to boot. This contest cuts against a rather bedeviling early-season trend of the Bulls struggling to win games during his scoring outbursts; they are now 3-9 in games in which he eclipses 30 points.

5. If DeRozan needed added motivation, Allen provided it in the third quarter by adding to his legacy of being reviled by the Bulls' fanbase:

This sequence began with Allen being fouled by Williams, but Allen appeared to embellish that contact and caught DeRozan with an arm bar to the back shortly after. While, throughout the ensuing altercation, Allen appeared to insist the contact was unintentional and a result of the push, DeRozan's immediate reaction is emblematic of the little benefit of the doubt Allen will receive from many because of his track record.

Needless to say, the boos were thunderous as Allen stepped to the free throw line after a lengthy review. Those continued through the rest of the evening, and to the United Center crowd's delight, Allen finished 3-for-14 from 3-point range, missing a handful that could have swung the momentum of this contest in Milwaukee's favor.

6. That made him the worst offender of a woefully wayward shooting night for the Bucks, in general. They finished 9-for-44 (20.5 percent) from 3-point range and missed more than a few wide open attempts on the back end of Antetokounmpo double-teams — a dynamic that ultimately cost them the game.

The Bulls, meanwhile, matched their makes with nine, but on a typically low volume of 22 attempts (good for 40.9 percent).

7. Improvement areas are easier to swallow after a win than a loss. Still, the Bulls must learn from another instance of being dominated on the offensive glass.

In this one, Milwaukee pulled down a whopping 22 offensive rebounds, with 14 coming from their top three frontcourt players Antetokounmpo (seven), Portis (five) and Lopez (two). Even their guards got in on the action with Allen and Wesley Matthews each coming down with three.

Not only did those boards lead to 23 back-breaking second-chance points, they allowed the Bucks to take 18 more field goal attempts than the Bulls in the game, which nearly compensated for the shooting disparity.

8. All things considered, the Bulls were well disciplined in their defensive game plan on Antetokounmpo. Williams began as Antetokounmpo's primary defensive matchup, and notched a block and a steal in the first five minutes, but the Bulls also threw multiple helpers at him on drives, forcing a handful of pull-up jumpshot attempts outside the paint and uncharacteristic misses at the rim.

Antetokounmpo is a great player, so he still got his. He finished the first half, for example, with 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. But he was also 7-for-17 from the field and two of his makes came off of loose balls that bounced to him for easy tip-ins.

Then, in the second half and overtime, he really got rolling, scoring 25 points to finish with 45 of those, 22 rebounds and seven assists. At times, Williams and Vučević offered little individual resistance as the two-time MVP took the game over, particularly early in the fourth as Milwaukee build as much as a 15-point lead.

But ultimately, the Bulls made him work hard enough for those points by limiting him to 17-for-39 shooting and stymying him in the crunch-time moments that mattered most by hurling double- and triple-teams at him and forcing him into difficult decision-making positions and off-balance jumpers.

9. It must be noted that the Bucks played without Khris Middleton (knee soreness) and Jrue Holiday (non-COVID illness), which exacerbated the limited shotmaking of their role players and allowed the Bulls to load up on Antetokounmpo.

The Bulls were also shorthanded, missing Alex Caruso, who has exited concussion protocol but is still nursing a shoulder sprain, and Derrick Jones Jr. Coby White also left the contest in the first half with a left leg injury, another blow to the guard room.

10. Injury report parsing aside, this result now moves the Bulls to 5-1 against the Eastern Conference's top three seeds (2-1 against the Celtics, 1-0 against the Nets and 2-0 against the Bucks). All the stranger, they are 4-9 against teams currently below .500, making for a confounding campaign that nonetheless sees them at 15-19 and in the final play-in spot as of Wednesday night.

Next up: Home for the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

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