The game pits the Bulls against the Bucks, who are hoping that an eight-day break won’t slow them down in their pursuit of the Boston Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference against the Bucks. The Bulls need to turn things around in the last part of the season.
The Bucks are coming into this game on an 11-game winning streak, which is the longest streak of the season and includes victories over the best teams in the East (Boston) and West (the Denver Nuggets). The Celtics were defeated on Tuesday night, 131-125, in overtime.
The win brought the Bucks within one game of the Celtics, a gap that could have been reversed if Milwaukee hadn’t suffered two of its 17 losses to the Bulls.
DeMar DeRozan, an All-Star, scored 36 points in a 118-113 Chicago victory over Milwaukee on Nov. 23, and on Dec. 28, he dominated the Bucks in overtime to win 119-113 at home. DeRozan scored 42 points in that game.
The Bulls went on a tear after neither victory, going four of five and two of three after the victory in December, respectively.
Since their last meeting with Milwaukee, Chicago has gone on three three-game winning streaks, only to lose three, two, and five times in a row.
They enter the matchup on Thursday with a five-game losing streak. Before suffering defeats of 100-91 against the Orlando Magic on Monday and 117-113 against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday in Indianapolis, Chicago had fallen three times in a row on the road.
DeRozan missed the first game of the back-to-back due to a strained right quad. Zach LaVine scored 35 points against the Pacers. DeRozan hoped to be healthy enough to play in the All-Star Game on Sunday, and he had not been ruled out of the Milwaukee game.
The fact that the Bulls lost on Wednesday after playing some of their best basketball of the season in the first quarter and taking a 39-15 lead was especially disheartening.
In the Bucks’ victory over the Celtics on Tuesday, their two All-Stars, Jrue Holiday (40 points) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (36) dominated, scoring 13 of the team’s 15 overtime points.
As it waits for the season debut of Jae Crowder, who was acquired from the Nets at the trade deadline after the Phoenix Suns traded him to Brooklyn in exchange for Kevin Durant, Milwaukee only had three reserves who scored.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer is counting down the days until Crowder will be in game condition, which probably won’t be until after the All-Star break. Crowder hasn’t played this season.