The boos started early and loudly, reaching their crescendo when public address announcer Tim Sinclair announced Grayson Allen during the Bucks’ starting lineup introductions.
The man who drew an ejection and one-game suspension for his flagrant-2 foul on Alex Caruso on Jan. 21 that fractured Caruso’s right wrist heard boos on every touch.
Except one. The one where Derrick Jones Jr. drew his own flagrant-1 foul for a body block and elbow to the head with 8 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the Chicago Bulls’ fourth straight loss on Friday night at the United Center.
“Get a stop. That’s all that goes through my head,” Jones Jr. said when asked if the foul carried special intent. “I’m not a dirty player. I talked to every ref that was there today. I don’t think it was a flagrant. They said I hit him in his head. I didn’t feel it. I just felt him bump my hip and fall. That’s all I felt.
“Y’all trying to make it something it ain’t. I ain’t even tripping off that. It’s basketball. I want to get a stop as much as they want to get a stop on the other end. What happened in Milwaukee, we didn’t like it. It’s obvious that we didn’t like it. Nobody likes that.
“But I’m not going to go out there and just try to take a man out. That’s not who I am. If I get a foul while in the process of trying to get a stop, then so be it. But I ain’t gonna try to blatantly take that man out. He got a family to take care of. Why would I do that?”
Allen sank both free throws to break a tie, part of his seven points on a mostly quiet night---save for the fan reaction.
It almost seemed ironic how coach Billy Donovan praised the Bucks’ ability to play such physical defense without fouling, a truism on most nights for one of the better defensive teams in the league. But those words contrasted so sharply against Donovan’s strong---and uncharacteristic---rebuke of Allen’s flagrant foul back on Jan. 21.
The Bulls downplayed the incident both leading up to this game and in its aftermath. After all, they have bigger issues at hand after dropping to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with their fourth straight loss.
Coincidentally, fouling is one of their major issues. For the second straight night, their opponent enjoyed a huge disparity in free-throw attempts. After the Hawks quadrupled the Bulls’ seven attempts on Thursday night, the Bucks tripled the Bulls’ mere 11 attempts on Friday.
“That comes from just being mentally locked into the game, understanding the small tendencies of players, of possessions. How to be aggressive without using your hands, using your body,” DeMar DeRozan said. “You have to give credit. Their team has that. We’re still trying to learn that. We bail teams out way too much. We just have to play smart.”
The Bulls and Bucks play twice more, on March 22 in Milwaukee and on April 5 in Chicago. Caruso could be back for both, but almost certainly for the latter contest. Expect the Bulls to keep the focus on basketball and trying to close the gap between the teams.
“You understand it. I don’t think it’s something that you need to talk about. You know what’s what,” DeRozan said, when asked if the Bulls discussed Allen’s Jan. 21 flagrant leading up to this meeting. “You realize it every single day when you see a teammate that’s not playing because of injury that was caused by a team that we’re playing.”