The Bulls held a 22-point lead with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the first half — their largest of the game. That advantage was 18 at halftime.
It wouldn’t last.
Milwaukee went on to outscore Chicago by 29 points (46-17) in the third quarter for a 123-104 victory. The last time the Bucks overcame a halftime deficit that large was Nov. 26, 1999 at Boston. Antetokounmpo was 4 years old.
Friday night’s turnaround began with a halftime powwow.
“We know we weren’t playing hard enough,” Antetokounmpo said. “Coach [Mike Budenholzer] came in and let us know we weren’t putting enough effort and energy into the game.”
After trailing at halftime, the Bucks exploded out of the break, going on a 12-4 run to open the third quarter to bring the Fiserv Forum crowd to its feet.
Khris Middleton comes up with a steal, breaks away to the basket and lobs a pass up to Eric Bledsoe for a dunk.
“Once we started making shots, they started missing,” Bledsoe said. “We started going on our run, getting our crowd into it. I guess they got into a little panic mode.”
Khris Middleton’s 3-pointer is off the mark, but Giannis Antetokounmpo rises up for a monster putback dunk that gets the crowd on their feet.
Antetokounmpo’s dunk, coming off of a missed 3 by Middleton gave the Bucks the lead. They would not trail the rest of the game.
To cap off the quarter, Bledsoe nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over Shaquille Harrison. He finished with a game-high 25 points.
Eric Bledsoe knocks down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bucks 46 points in the 3rd quarter.
The game spoiled Bulls power forward Jabari Parker‘s return to the city and team that drafted him second overall in 2014. As a member of the Bucks, Parker was a fan favorite. On Friday, the crowd booed him during introductions and when he made his first basket. Like the Bulls, Parker had a strong first half, scoring 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. But Parker finished with only 21 points, shooting 2-of-7 from the field in a four-point second half. The Milwaukee crowd taunted him when he air-balled a corner 3-pointer in the third quarter.
“You can ask the smallest person in the building,” Parker said after the loss. “I knew everybody’s name and I always had a great relationship with everybody. This was home. This was family for me. That’s how it’s going to be, nothing has changed. I still do a lot of business out here. The city of Milwaukee definitely has my heart. They’re so good to me. I’m so happy for all those guys.”
With the win, the Bucks are now 11-4 and they continue to lead the league by outscoring opponents by an average of 11.4 points per game. No other team is outscoring teams by more than 8.0 points per game. On Friday night, the Bucks needed only 13 minutes to show the Bulls how strong they are.
“We believe in approaching each day and each game very similarly,” Budenholzer said. “Whatever people may perceive as big games we approach the same. Games that maybe people perceive as we have the upper hand, we approach the same. So hopefully there’s a consistency to the way we approach the game, practices and all those things. Hopefully we become a team that is very mature, professional and very competitive.
“But it is easier said than done.”
Antetokounmpo agreed that this game was not good enough for the Bucks, and he let his teammates know there’s still work to be done. As newcomer Christian Wood was leaving the locker room, Antetokounmpo called after him: “Work on that lefty!”