MILWAUKEE — After a two-day break to relax with family, exchange presents, dig into a good meal — and, maybe, catch a little basketball on television — the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls return to action Tuesday night, resuming their Central Division rivalry with a Boxing Day matchup at the Bradley Center.
The same two teams met a little less than two weeks ago in the same building, with Chicago knocking down 10 3-pointers in a 115-109 victory that extended their winning streak to five games. The Bulls would stretch that streak to seven before dropping back-to-back contests at Cleveland and Boston leading up to Christmas.
The loss to the Celtics marked the first time Chicago failed to score 100 points in 10 games, in large part because Kris Dunn missed 11 of 12 shots and committed two turnovers while matched up against Boston’s Kyrie Irving.
He’s bounced back from rough outings before, though. He was benched late in a Nov. 26 contest against Miami after going 0-for-6 with three turnovers. He responded with 24 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals against Phoenix the next time out and averaged 16.0 points on 49.4 percent shooting with 4.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists in his next 13 games.
“You have to stay even-keeled,” Dunn told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m not satisfied when I play well and I try to learn from mistakes when I don’t play well. I watch a lot of film.”
Head coach Fred Hoiberg was impressed with the way Dunn had shaken off the outing by the next morning’s practice.
“You would never know that this morning the way he came in,” Hoiberg said. “He had a smile on his face. His head was up.
“You have to have that. When you hit adversity, you have to bounce back. Kris has been able to recover from tough performances.”
Tuesday’s game kicks off a challenging part of the schedule for the Bulls, who will play five games in the next seven days including a pair of back-to-back sets.
“This is a tough stretch we’re in,” Hoiberg said.
Milwaukee is coming off a loss at Charlotte Saturday night but played that contest without Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s second-leading scorer this season.
A bout of soreness with his right knee sidelined Antetokounmpo, who’d played 37 minutes in a game against the Hornets a night earlier, but said he wasn’t worried about the situation.
“Oh no, I’m definitely not worried,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Just got to be a little bit cautious about it. That’s what my team wants me to do. I think that’s the best decision for my knee. Just got to be careful because at the end of the day, we’re a really good team, and we want to make the playoffs. We want to go deep in the playoffs. … We don’t want anything happening right now to my knee that’s going to affect the team in the long run.”
Bucks coach Jason Kidd agreed with the sentiment.
“No concerns,” Kidd said. “He’s going to be sore. He’s playing at a very high level.”
He certainly is. Antetokounmpo went into the holiday averaging 29.6 points per game. He’s eighth with 10.5 rebounds, 12th in shooting percentage (54.2), ninth in steals (1.83) and 10th in blocks (1.41).
But fortunately for Milwaukee, he hasn’t had to carry the offensive load alone. The Bucks offense has been electric since adding Eric Bledsoe to the mix back in November and along with Khris Middleton, the Bucks have scored 100 points or more in 15 consecutive games — the team’s longest run of surpassing the century mark since the 1986-87 season.
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