Bucks visit Bulls seeking third straight win
CHICAGO -- After a midseason slump that ultimately cost coach Jason Kidd his job, the Milwaukee Bucks are hoping a two-game winning streak -- as meager as it seems -- may be just the beginning of good things to come.
The Bucks (25-22) remain inside the Eastern Conference's playoff picture after winning back-to-back games under interim coach Joe Prunty. Now, heading into Sunday's game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center, the Bucks are looking to keep moving in a positive direction.
"That's what we're getting back to, just having fun," forward Khris Middleton told reporters after the Bucks' 116-91 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. "We're playing for one another. When we're having fun and relaxed but we play hard we're one of the best teams, I feel like.
"The last two nights (in wins over the Phoenix Suns and Nets) we showed it. Granted, it wasn't against some of the best teams, but we feel like we can do that every night."
Milwaukee's latest victory was sparked by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished Friday's victory with 41 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks after missing the previous two games with right knee soreness. An extended eight-game break provided him with the rest he needed, which was evident in his impressive return.
"I felt like me today," Antetokounmpo said Friday, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "Those eight days they helped me a lot. I was able to get energized, get my confidence up, feel a little bit stronger. But I felt lost, I definitely felt lost, because this is what I love to do is play games."
The Bucks played Friday without guard Malcolm Brogdon, who missed the game with right calf soreness and whose status against the Bulls and against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday remains unclear.
Prunty told reporters that the team is not certain when the injury occurred, but is something that will continue to be monitored.
The Bulls (18-31) will carry a three-game losing streak into the game. After a 108-103 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, coach Fred Hoiberg again cited a lack of energy for the team's recent struggles.
Chicago has struggled mightily without guard Kris Dunn, who remains out with concussion symptoms. Hoiberg told reporters Friday that Dunn is feeling a bit better but has been very limited when it comes to physical activity.
Without Dunn, the Bulls faltered early against the Lakers, who put Chicago in a 15-point hole in the first quarter. Zack LaVine, who has gradually seen his minutes increase since returning from a torn ACL, made only 3 of 17 shots from the field Friday.
Bulls guard Denzel Valentine told reporters Friday that the team's chemistry has been off without Dunn and as Hoiberg has experimented with different lineups.
Chicago has lost three of four games without Dunn. But with Dunn's return anything but imminent, the Bulls will look to end their three-game skid on Sunday against Milwaukee.
"We're still adjusting without Kris, who obviously has been a big part of what we are doing here," Hoiberg told Bulls.com. "We are trying to get Zach (LaVine) reintegrated into what we are doing as well.
"Some of it is moving parts, understanding where guys are on the floor. We need to finish at the rim better and we will. I'm confident Zach's got good days ahead. He is trying to get his rhythm, but that will come."
Updated January 27, 2018