Derrick Rose turned his head for a split second, which was all the time the Milwaukee Bucks and Jerryd Bayless needed to slip him underneath the rim, and give Rose 48 hours of kicking himself after 48 minutes of exhilarating but mishap-filled basketball.
The Milwaukee Bucks registered a win in their first-round series with a 92-90 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center when Bayless slipped by the Bulls point guard for a layup at the buzzer off an inbounds pass with 1.3 seconds left.
“It was honestly trying to beat them backdoor,” said Bayless, a reserve guard who’s gotten into his share of physical scrums in this series, backing down from no one. “We were hoping he was going to bite, and he bit on it. (Jared Dudley) made a spectacular pass and luckily I was able to finish it.”
The misery immediately followed a Rose turnover where Bayless stopped Rose dead in his tracks, forcing the Bulls’ season-high 28th turnover of the night—and although Bayless’ game-winner didn’t register as a turnover, it’s the kind of mental mistake the Bulls can’t afford to give up in this round—or any round.
“I put that all on me. I just wasn’t paying attention to it. Great call from J-Kidd. But if anything, it’s a learning experience,” Rose said. “Knowing we could’ve forced overtime. I missed things up.”
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After early struggles, Rose had a sterling fourth-quarter before his last two mishaps, including a triple that cut the Bucks’ lead to 90-87 with 1:05 left, followed by feeding Pau Gasol the next possession for a layup and three-point play that tied the game with 38 seconds left. It was the kind of help Jimmy Butler had been begging for all night, as the fourth-leading scorer in the playoffs put up 33 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 40 minutes.
“Jimmy did a great job with holding us up and making sure we were comfortable throughout the game,” Rose said. “I tried to stay out the way here and there, and the times I did, I gotta cut down on my turnovers.”
They often talk about taking what the “game” gives them, and by way of their carelessness for 48 minutes, the game delivered them a loss when they could’ve kicked their feet up for the next week to rest for Round 2.
“I just told the team this, I’m not going to put it on that last play,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There were a lot of other plays throughout the course of the game … we didn’t play well. When you turn the ball over like that you’re not going to have success.”
The Bulls treated the ball as if it were diseased, with the third-highest amount of turnovers in a playoff game in the last 25 years. Their first-quarter turnover issues carried over to the final three, as Rose, Nikola Mirotic and Gasol took center stage for all the wrong reasons.
Rose gave it away eight times while Gasol had five turnovers of his own and Mirotic, who returned from missing Game 3 with a left knee strain, had three turnovers in 20 minutes, leading to 39 Bucks points.
While his teammates were listed as “missing” on a milk carton, Butler did the heavy lifting against a balanced and emotional Bucks team that wouldn’t give the Bulls an inch, literally or figuratively. The animosity from Game 2 returned after a one-game absence, with multiple technical fouls and physical confrontations.
Butler helped rally the Bulls from a 46-34 deficit in the second quarter, scoring or assisting in 18 of the Bulls’ final 20 points of the period. Scoring seven points in the last 28 seconds—including a ridiculous 3-point bank shot at the buzzer—tied the game at 50.
But the Bucks didn’t fold, behind their formidable bench of Bayless, Dudley, John Henson and OJ Mayo, who kept the Bulls at bay with four 3-point daggers and led the Bucks with18 points in 23 minutes.
Their resolve was somewhat surprising, as Mayo had a 30-foot shot-clock triple called back by review that everyone thought put the Bucks up 90-84 with three minutes remaining.
Before it was reviewed, Butler hit a three that seemed to shift the momentum before Mayo left no doubt the next time down, hitting a long triple with 12 seconds on the shot clock following two offensive rebounds.
Even when luck appeared to be on the Bulls’ side, the Bucks kept fighting it off, giving way for a miracle—as the Bulls will live in misery for 48 hours, starting with their illustrious point guard.