He probably won’t garner MVP consideration anytime soon, but it’s hard to argue with the impact forward Nikola Mirotic has had on the Chicago Bulls. The suddenly resurgent Bulls aim for their fifth straight win since Mirotic returned to the lineup when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.
Mirotic has produced six, 19, 24 and 29 points - in that order - in his four games since coming back from facial fractures as Chicago - the last-place team in the Eastern Conference for much of the season - has put together the East’s longest current winning streak. “We are enjoying playing the basketball together,” Mirotic told reporters after a 103-100 victory over Utah on Wednesday. “You can see good chemistry. The guys on the bench, they are all yelling, they’ve been happy. So I think after (what) we all get through, this team deserves it.” The Bucks were streaking as well until a visit to New Orleans on Wednesday, which resulted in a 115-108 loss. Milwaukee has won four in a row at home and also hosts the Bulls on Dec. 26.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN Chicago, FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
ABOUT THE BULLS (7-20): Point guard Kris Dunn capped a 13-point effort with a big basket in the waning moments against Utah and he added four steals for a team that is beginning to win the turnover battle more often. They are averaging 11.3 during the winning streak while forcing an average of 14, with Dunn and backup Jerian Grant making big strides in that department. Dunn has 7.3 assists and 2.3 turnovers per game in December after registering 4.3 and 3.2, respectively, in November, while Grant has 28 assists against only three turnovers in 81 minutes over his last five games.
ABOUT THE BUCKS (15-11): The Pelicans made 13-of-25 3-pointers in their win over Milwaukee, continuing a theme for the league’s worst perimeter defense, which allows an NBA-high 40.2 percent shooting from the arc. “I think they hit threes — threes have been our killer for the last two years,” guard Malcolm Brogdon told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “They made threes down the stretch and we didn’t contest them. That hurts and that wins games.” Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to keep pace with a 32-point effort, his fourth 30-point game in six tries this month.
1. Mirotic is shooting 57.1 percent from the floor and 52.2 percent from 3-point range.
2. Bucks SG Tony Snell (knee) missed three straight games and is day-to-day.
3. Antetokounmpo averaged 27.3 points, 9.5 rebouunds and 6.5 assists as Milwaukee took three of four meetings last season.
PREDICTION: Bucks 107, Bulls 103