Bulls beat Bucks to extend winning streak to five games
MILWAUKEE — Less than two months have passed since Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic fought each other on the floor of the Chicago Bulls’ practice facility, leaving Mirotic sidelined with a fractured face.
Now that duo is powering the Bulls through their best stretch of the season.
Chicago extended its winning streak to a season-high five games Friday night, riding 27 points from Portis and 22 from Mirotic to a 115-109 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center.
“Me and Niko, we don’t really care about that situation (their fight) anymore,” Portis said. “Everything’s for the team. We’re professionals, we’re basketball players and this is our job.
“Ultimately we have to come in here every day, put our shoes on and play together, find a way to make it work. I feel we’ve done that up until this point. It’s been fun playing with Niko. He’s a hell of a player. He’s been playing out of his mind ever since he’s been back and I’m happy for him.”
Mirotic made his season debut Dec. 8 and the Bulls haven’t lost since.
“It’s been crazy, to be honest,” Mirotic said. “Never thought about it, you know. We both have stepped up. I think we’ve learned how to play with each other during the game. But we need to give the credit to (head coach Fred Hoiberg) because Fred is the one who is putting us in the right spot, Bobby and me.
“When I’m there, I’m just trying to enjoy. Right now, we’re both playing a little minutes together because it’s working, the team is playing well.”
Portis finished with 12 rebounds while Mirotic and Robin Lopez grabbed eight apiece for the Bulls, who out-rebounded Milwaukee, 50-43, but dominated the Bucks on the offensive glass with Lopez grabbing six of Chicago’s 14 offensive boards.
The Bulls used those opportunities to their advantage, scoring 24 second-chance points.
“We stopped the first shot, but they didn’t miss their second shot and we couldn’t get a rebound,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “It wasn’t just the bigs, it was whoever was on the floor. We couldn’t come up with a rebound, Portis and Lopez dominated the boards offensively and they capitalized on their second-chance shots.”
While both teams shot 48 percent from the floor, Milwaukee was hurt by off nights from Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe and Rashad Vaughn. That trio combined to miss 21 of 39 attempts from the floor and were 3-for-17 from beyond the arc.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton led Milwaukee (15-12) with 29 points each but Middleton struggled, too, going 9-for-19 from the floor and 2-for-9 from distance.
“We got a lot of wide-open shots that just didn’t go down for us tonight. You have to play perfect when you’re down, both offensively and defensively. We couldn’t get stops and we couldn’t make an open shot tonight.”
Trying to bounce back from their first loss in four games, the Bucks led 16-6 early but Kris Dunn rattled off five in a row on his own and the Bulls tied the game at 22 with 4:22 left in the opening quarter.
Chicago took advantage of foul trouble by the Bucks in the second quarter and went 6-for-11 from the free throw line to take a 59-58 lead at halftime.
A 5-0 run to close the third let the Bucks head into the fourth tied at 82.
Bledsoe fed Vaughn for a 3 that tied it at 98 and, after Mirotic missed a 20-footer, Middleton’s layup put the Bucks up 100-98 with five minutes remaining.
A Mirotic 3-pointer made it a 109-104 game and gave the Bulls some breathing room with 2:42 to play but Dunn fouled out with 1:24 left, fouling Middleton on a 3-point attempt.
He made all three, cutting the deficit to two, but Mirotic drew just enough contact on an underarm lob to head to the line and Chicago took a 112-107 lead after he converted the three-point play.
NOTES: Bulls C Lauri Markkanen did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and missed a third consecutive game because of back spasms. Head coach Fred Hoiberg said Markkanen was feeling better but that a two-hour bus ride to Milwaukee might be “counterproductive.” ... Milwaukee has scored 100 points in 11 consecutive games — the longest streak of 100-point games by a Bucks team since 1990-91, when they did it in 12 straight contests. ... The Bulls have won 12 of their last 16 games in Milwaukee.