Well, at least the Bulls cured their ills of having slow starts in their recent losses.
They’ll have to hope that 2017 brings about more solutions for the other three quarters, though.
The Bulls finished up their 2016 portion of their schedule with a new starting lineup and wonderful new vibes for the first 12 minutes but finished out with the same old familiar result against the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center, losing 116-96 Saturday night.
Fred Hoiberg made the expected decision of benching Rajon Rondo in favor of Michael Carter-Williams and it provided a momentary energy boost — emphasis on “momentary”.
Carter-Williams had a pretty no-look flip pass to Dwyane Wade in the first quarter from halfcourt that resulted in a dunk on a play in which both he and Jimmy Butler dove on the floor for loose balls.
In general, the Bulls played with more fervor to start the game, shooting 48 percent and taking a 10-point lead. Butler had a low-key start but finished with 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
But it wasn’t sustainable as the Bucks held the Bulls to 17 of 44 shooting in the middle two quarters — as the Bulls again failed to identify the rare hot shooter. Friday it was Doug McDermott who went AWOL. Saturday it was Nikola Mirotic who started off three for three in the first but didn’t get another shot until the start of the fourth.
Perhaps he was quarantined off by the massive arms of Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was literally everywhere at all times.
There may be no bigger matchup problem for the Bulls in the East than the Bucks and Antetokounmpo signifies that more than anybody, as he finished with 35 points on just 19 shots to go along with nine rebounds, seven assists, seven blocks and a measly two steals.
After the short surge, the game drastically got away from the Bulls as the Bucks kept pushing, kept jumping and never stopped running.
Rookie Malcolm Brogdon, a second-round find for the Bucks, had a triple-double with 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes
Antetokounmpo had five blocks in the first half, often triggering their potent fast break. And when he wasn’t underneath the Bulls’ fingertips, he was above the rim — on both ends. Rising above for rebounds, flying over and posing for dunks.
At one moment in the third quarter, with his team firmly in control of whatever the Bulls were doing, he smiled and rubbed his hands together like they were cold — but he had his hands on the ball and game so much, he probably didn’t know what it was like to be without it.
He was aided by a familiar face to this area in Jabari Parker, who scored 27 with five rebounds and three assists
Parker, the Chicago native who had a slow start to his career after a storied prep stint, has truly begun to find his footing and stuck it right in the middle of the Bulls’ defense, using his 250-pound frame to bully the Bulls inside and while on the perimeter just rose above defenders to unleash a silky smooth jumper.
He hit a triple midway through the fourth with the shot clock running down, easily solving the Bulls’ defense after the first quarter. In sharp contrast to the Bulls’ decline, the Bucks scored 58 points in the middle two quarters and shot 22 of 37 from the field, with Greg Monroe scoring 15 with 12 rebounds off the bench.
It became fairly obvious where things were headed — and they went there quite quickly.
Onto 2017, uncertain days ahead for these Chicago Bulls.