Inside the Bulls’ 40-Point First Quarters vs. the Bucks

The Chicago Bulls lost to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night in heartbreaking fashion. They fell 116-113 on a Khris Middleton 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation. This is the second time in two weeks that Milwaukee has defeated Chicago. The Central Division foes faced off on Nov. 16, with the Bucks securing a 123-104 victory.

The Bulls and Bucks are now halfway through their season series, with the Fiserv Forum portion completed. The final two matchups will happen at the United Center in February on the 11th and 25th. The Bucks are second place in the Eastern Conference and the Bulls are in 13th, so it’s not surprising that Milwaukee holds the 2-0 lead.

However, there is a quirk within these two battles that isn’t apparent from the final results. The Chicago Bulls inaugurated both games by scoring 40 points in the first quarter. These instances are tied for the second-most points scored in a quarter by the Bulls this season. They are only beat out by their 41-point first quarter in the season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Admittedly, it’s surprising to see the third lowest scoring team in the NBA pull off such big scoring outputs in one quarter. It’s doubly so considering it has happened twice against one of the East’s best teams. So the big question is “How did they do it”?

Chicago has actually been very competitive in the first quarter as of late. The Bulls are 8-5-1 in first quarters so far this month, with their last game on the 30th against the Detroit Pistons pending. They have defeated the Bucks by 13- and 10-point margins. However, they also led the Cleveland Cavaliers by 14 points after the first quarter and the Indiana Pacers by 15. As a result, the Bulls’ 11.8 net rating in first quarters is third-best in the NBA in November.

In the Bulls-Bucks game on the 16th, Chicago came out the gate executing on offense. The team was aggressive on drives, forcing the defense to converge in the paint. Other times, they moved the ball around well enough until a shooter was open. This allowed the Bulls to go 7-of-11 from 3-point range in the first frame. Justin Holiday capitalized with a 6-of-6 first half from beyond the arc.

powered by Advanced iFrame free. Get the Pro version on CodeCanyon.

The Bucks also committed seven turnovers in the quarter. Some of them were due to the Bulls’ attentive defense while others were unforced errors. Either way, Chicago managed to score 15 points off of those miscues.

Milwaukee started the game on the 28th frigid from beyond the arc. They went 0-of-7 in the quarter, after going 5-of-9 in the first on the 16th. Despite those perimeter issues, the Bulls actually weren’t as sharp on defense. They conceded 30 points on 52.2 percent shooting. Giannis Antetokounmpo asserted his dominance by going 4-of-4 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free throw line in the quarter for 11 points.

powered by Advanced iFrame free. Get the Pro version on CodeCanyon.

Offensively, they were still confident and aggressive getting to the rim. Zach LaVine also went 4-of-4 from the field for 11 points in the quarter. The Bulls went 5-for-8 from 3-point range and drew 15 free throw attempts on seven fouls in the frame.

powered by Advanced iFrame free. Get the Pro version on CodeCanyon.

So if the Bulls are doing so well in first quarters this month, why are they 2-6 in games where they’ve won the opening set?

In both games, the Bucks made some adjustments, such as having perimeter help defenders not show so deep on drives. However, it was mainly due to the Bulls’ complacency.

On the 16th, they went on to not be as aggressive driving to the basket, opting to settle for jump shots. Their ball movement wavered, too. Instead, Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, and Holiday — the team’s top three scorers — took turns playing Hero Ball and forcing up less than ideal shots. As a result, Chicago infamously gave up 46 points in the third quarter while only scoring 17 of their own.

powered by Advanced iFrame free. Get the Pro version on CodeCanyon.

On the 28th, Milwaukee fought back with a 33-22 second quarter. Milwaukee kicked the quarter off by forcing Parker into turnovers on three consecutive possessions. Malcolm Brogdon also knocked down two 3-pointers in the early half of the period. This set the stage for a more competitive 53-51 second half, with the game ultimately ending in Milwaukee’s favor.

powered by Advanced iFrame free. Get the Pro version on CodeCanyon.

These issues show up in the numbers. The Bulls have a positive net rating this month in the first quarter, but it plummets to -26.7 in the second quarter (dead last in the NBA) and -14.7 in the third (29th). The rating bounces back to -6.2 in the fourth quarter (21st). However, it’s usually too late to recover by that point in the game.

Rebuilding teams suffer way more downs than ups. However, it’s important to embrace those positives so they can be replicated later on. Compared to October, the Bulls have gotten better at starting games. Now, the next step is keeping that same energy for the remainder of the game.

As the season progresses, can the Chicago Bulls learn to stay locked in for a full 48 minutes? Will they eventually become capable of countering their opponents’ countermove? The Bulls will have two more shots at the Bucks in February. We’ll see how much they have grown the next time these division rivals face off.

Header photo courtesy of Getty Images

Other Articles

Washington Wizards
Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers vs Los Angeles Lakers

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.