Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bucks Take Care Of Bulls In Final Seconds

Bucks Beat Bulls
The Bucks came away (on November 26) with not only one of their biggest wins of the season thus far, but also one of the most important of the five years. Beating the Bulls in a one-point nail biter in Chicago, the night was a quintessential sports moment that had all the right ingredients – a historic one-sided rivalry, a seemingly insurmountable deficit defeated by a brilliant performance by the bench, the end of a pair of losing streaks for the winner, and the retention of the coveted first spot in the division.

Milwaukee came into the United Center on Monday with nine consecutive games dropped to their southern neighbors. Despite that, the Bucks also entered the night at the top of the central division, but would lose that totem if they couldn't find a way to halt a three-game losing streak that began over the weekend.

Head coach Scott Skiles had a few ideas in mind to change his team's fortunes for Monday's game. Most obvious was the absence of star forward Ersan Ilyasova at the tip, being replaced in the starting lineup by rookie John Henson, who was getting his first career start as a professional.

Henson scored eleven points in the first two quarters, leading Milwaukee for the half. Point guard Brandon Jennings also started, quieting skeptics who thought he may be out due to an apparent ankle injury suffered days earlier.

Bulls Have Lead At Half

Despite their best efforts, Henson and his fellow starters were unable to keep Chicago from going into half time with an eight point lead. Lacking a solid defensive presence early on, Milwaukee failed to keep the Bulls heavy hitters away from the basket. They also allowed the usually poor three-point game from Chicago to flourish in the first half, and into the third.

Combining for seventeen points in the quarter, the Bulls Josh Hamilton and Carlos Boozer began a twenty-eight-to-thirteen run for Chicago; Hamilton ultimately ended the night with a season-high thirty points.

With just two minutes remaining in the third, Skiles took his final substitution to put Ilyasova, Doron Lamb, and Beno Udrih onto the court. The trio joined fellow reserves Epke Udoh and Mike Dunleavy, already on the floor. The five would remain in the game through the entire fourth quarter, inheriting a twenty-seven point deficit, but managing a win by the end.

Ilyasova would put up eighteen points on the night, with twelve coming in the final quarter. His remittance to the starting lineup is practically guaranteed after the game-saving performance, though the rest of that line will need to improve. Jennings, the league's best stealer, didn't put up a single takeaway on Monday. Perhaps most essential, however, is the team's three-point shooting, which was just three-of-fifteen against the Bulls, a continuation of the Bucks woes from beyond the arc over the past week.

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