The Milwaukee Bucks own the best record in the NBA and have yet to drop back-to-back games this season but looked like a different team with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo out of the lineup. The Bucks will try to keep their run of avoiding back-to-back setbacks alive when they visit the Chicago Bulls on Monday to begin a two-game road trip that takes the team into the All-Star break.
Milwaukee shot a season-worst 32.6 percent from the floor and dropped a 103-83 decision at home to the Orlando Magic on Saturday while Antetokounmpo sat out the second night of a back-to-back to rest a sore right knee. "It was one of them games on a back-to-back, we got in super late, had a late game," Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe told reporters. "They played their butts off as well. ... Everybody was tired, man. We didn't have no legs. We missed a lot of threes, threes we normally make. Like (coach Mike Budenholzer) said, throw this away." The Bulls are in the process of remaking their roster and added small forward Otto Porter Jr. at the deadline, and he is still learning the team's rotations on the defensive end. "Our trouble all year has been on the defensive end and we have to do a better job with that," Chicago guard Zach LaVine told reporters after a 134-125 loss to the Washington Wizards at home on Saturday. "We've got some funky lineups out there right now, but we have to fight through it. I don't think scoring is going to be the issue; it's chemistry. We are going to get that down."
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FS Wisconsin (Milwaukee), NBCS Chicago LINE: Bucks -9.5
ABOUT THE BUCKS (41-14): All-Star small forward Khris Middleton (4-of-17), center Brook Lopez (4-of-12) and guard Malcolm Brogdon (4-of-18) all struggled from the field on Saturday and were a combined 0-of-14 from 3-point range. "It's definitely frustrating I would say, but it's the game," Middleton told reporters. "Some games you shoot like that, you can't make a layup, seems like you can't throw it in the ocean sometimes. ... We're having a great season. We've had games where we couldn't miss, we've had games when we started off and couldn't make a shot then finally got hot. Tonight was just one of those nights." Bledsoe was one of the few players immune to the struggles and finished with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, 11 rebounds and five assists.
ABOUT THE BULLS (13-43): Chicago was outscored 36-18 at the 3-point line on Saturday while going 6-of-24 from beyond the arc. "I missed all three of mine," LaVine told reporters of his 3-point attempts. "I have to do a better job of making them. I don't think scoring was the issue. They scored more than us, but we scored enough to win. We have to do a better job of stopping people." Porter is averaging 17.5 points on 13-of-24 shooting in two games with his new team and recorded his first two steals in a Bulls uniform on Saturday.
1. Bucks PF Nikola Mirotic, who was acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans at the trade deadline, is recovering from a calf strain and could make his team debut Monday.
2. Bulls PF Lauri Markkanen recorded a double-double in six of the last seven games.
3. Milwaukee is enjoying a four-game winning streak in the series and won in both of its trips to Chicago last season.
PREDICTION: Bucks 126, Bulls 108 Bet Now
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