Bucks seek better defensive showing vs. Bulls

Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks will look to bounce back from a disappointing loss when they face the Chicago Bulls on Friday night to wrap up a four-game road trip.

Milwaukee (38-24) is coming off a 143-136 loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. The team’s porous defense concerned head coach Mike Budenholzer, but the top priority after the game was the health of superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who left after only 46 seconds because of a right ankle injury.

Antetokounmpo already was dealing with a sprained ankle entering the contest, and the Bucks had listed him as probable on the injury report. He aggravated the injury when he stepped on the foot of the Rockets’ Kelly Olynyk.

Budenholzer said the team remained hopeful that the ankle injury was not serious. Antetokounmpo’s status for Friday’s game against Chicago (26-36) is not certain.

What is clear, Budenholzer said, is that his team has to play better defense regardless of whom is on the court. Houston’s 143 points marked the highest total allowed by the Bucks this season — in regulation or overtime.

“I don’t think it’s one specific area,” Budenholzer said. “Defensively, we need to get better. We just need to get better. I’m not happy with how we played tonight, but it’s a good group, and they’ll respond appropriately.”

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said players needed to take accountability.

“At the end of the day, it’s us five guys on the court,” Holiday said. “Once you step on that court, you all need to be on the same page. Tonight, in the fourth quarter, yeah, we tried to step up and play defense a lot harder, but you have to do that the whole game.”

As Milwaukee tries to clamp down on defense, Chicago is hoping to find a spark on offense. The Bulls are coming off a 113-94 loss to the New York Knicks, which tied for their fourth-lowest scoring output of the season.

The Bulls have alternated wins and losses over the past six games. They sit two games back of the Washington Wizards for 10th place in the Eastern Conference, while the Bucks are solidly in third place.

Against the Bucks, leading Bulls scorer Zach LaVine (health and safety protocols) and reserve guard Troy Brown Jr. (sprained left ankle) are expected to be out. LaVine is averaging 27.5 points per game this season, and Brown is averaging 5.5 points in 13 games coming off the bench since joining Chicago via trade from the Wizards.

Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said he wants his young players to learn from a turbulent season.

“You hope that these experiences you learn from and you grow from and you get better from,” Donovan said. “A lot of guys are getting exposed to things that I think are going to help them. Now how long it takes us to continue to grow and develop, that’s going to be — we’ll see.”

–Field Level Media

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