When Brook Lopez opened the game with consecutive 3 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo followed with an easy dunk after receiving the DeMar DeRozan switch, things felt like they were about to get ugly.
The Bulls had come into the night and were still licking their wounds after a 5-1 win in the playoffs a year earlier. And while a nice win over the Boston Celtics was a reminder of just how well this team can play, a street fight with the Bucks still felt like a hurdle they didn’t want to jump.
But that’s why you play the game.
The Chicago Bulls just had perhaps their best regular-season win in the last two seasons. While there’s a chance I’ll wake up tomorrow and feel like this is a reactionary reaction, I can’t help but feel that a real argument needs to be made.
For a full 48 minutes, this team played with a relentless warmth and hectic pace that we have never experienced before. They didn’t back down in front of the most dominant player in the NBA, and they hit the biggest shots of the night when it counted. It was a truly fearless display of execution both ways — one that could very well result in a full season turnaround.
What made this win particularly outstanding was the play on the defensive side of the ball. Not only did the team play some of the most bodied basketball we’ve seen, but their help, rotation, and overall activity level were borderline exceptional. They kept the Bucks to just 31.6 percent shooting from behind the arc and forced them to 19 TOVs (leading to 17 points for Chicago).
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Bulls shot a hair below 50.0 percent and hit a season-high 18 3-pointers. They owe their efficient play against the best team in the NBA to the same selfless ball movement we saw in Monday’s win over Boston. In addition, the role-players’ ability to climb up and knock down important buckets proved crucial. Coby White nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to level the game, then took the lead with about a minute to go.
The Bulls have now claimed their first win of the regular season since December 26, 2017 in Milwaukee. For an organization that has repeatedly struggled to play competitive basketball against the top teams in the Eastern Conference, this week has felt like the Bulls are making a statement. Now they have to persevere on this grueling road trip for everyone to be truly convinced that the script is flipped in Chicago, but this is a hell of a start.
More tomorrow. Drink happy drinks!
Check out the full box score here.