MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks displayed a championship mentality by beating a quality opponent even when their shots didn’t fall.
Of course, it helped that the Chicago Bulls were also ice cold from the field.
Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 12 rebounds to help the Bucks overcome Grayson Allen’s ejection and beat the Bulls 94-90 on Friday night. Both teams shot below 40% overall and posted their worst 3-point percentages of the season.
“At the end of the day, a win is a win,” Antetokounmpo said. “We did the right things. We created good habits tonight.”
DeMar DeRozan scored 35 points but missed a 3-pointer that would have put the Bulls ahead with 23 seconds left. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton made two free throws with 15.8 seconds remaining to close out the scoring
Chicago shot 18.4% (7 of 38) from beyond the arc and the Bucks made 19.4% (6 of 31) of their attempts.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan appreciated the effort his team showed even on a poor-shooting night as they played without injured guards Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine for a fourth straight game.
Donovan was more frustrated about the hard foul on Chicago’s Alex Caruso midway through the third quarter that resulted in Allen’s ejection. Allen was called for a flagrant foul 2 against Caruso as the Bulls guard was driving to the basket.
“For Alex to be in the air like that and for (Allen) to take him down like that, he could have ended his career,” Donovan said. “(Allen) has a history of this. That, to me, was really dangerous. I really hope the league takes a hard look at something like that because he could have really, really seriously hurt (Caruso).”
Caruso landed on his right side and remained on the floor under the basket for a couple of minutes before staying in the game.
“The dude just grabbed me out of the air,” Caruso said.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer had a different perspective.
“I think Grayson (did) nothing malicious, went to block the shot,” Budenholzer said. “I think it’s a close call, and they went with flagrant 2. I’m not going to disagree. It’s right on the border and that’s the direction they went.”
The first of four scheduled matchups this season between the defending NBA champion Bucks and the Central Division-leading Bulls was a down-to-the wire battle featuring 16 lead changes and 15 ties.
Neither team ever led by more than seven.
DeRozan, who went 17 of 18 on free-throw attempts, hit a jumper to put the Bulls ahead 67-66 in the last minute of the third quarter. The Bulls grabbed a four-point lead early in the final period, but the Bucks responded and moved ahead for good on Antetokounmpo’s free throw with 7:24 left.
“We talk about versatility in a lot of different ways,” Budenholzer said. “And I think you’ve got to be versatile in the kind of games you can win. I’m very proud of the guys, for them to find a way to win tonight. We had to earn that.”
Middleton had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Bucks, while Bobby Portis added 12 points and 13 rebounds. Jrue Holiday scored 13 points.
Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls. Matt Thomas added 11 points and went 3 of 5 on 3-point attempts.
Bulls: Donovan said Ball is expected to undergo surgery sometime next week. The Bulls had announced Thursday that Ball’s injury would require surgery. Ball is expected to require 6 to 8 weeks of recovery after his surgery. … Donovan said LaVine has responded well to his treatment but doesn’t have an exact return date for him in mind.
Bucks: Holiday came off the bench for a second straight game as the Bucks continue to monitor his minutes. Holiday returned to action Wednesday against Memphis after missing five games with a sore left ankle. … The Bucks are 18-3 when they have Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Middleton all on the floor.
Bulls: At Orlando on Sunday. The Bulls beat the Magic 123-88 in Orlando on Nov. 26 and 102-98 in Chicago on Jan. 3.
Bucks: Host the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. The Bucks have won their last 10 meetings with the Kings and haven’t lost to them since Feb. 1, 2016.