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Tensions boil over and the Chicago Bulls lose their composure

Will Gottlieb Avatar
March 2, 2024

Playoff atmosphere, anyone?

It remains to be seen whether the Chicago Bulls will make it that far in the NBA season, but the team certainly got a taste of that energy on Friday night’s 9:00 PM tip off against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Though the Bulls were able to keep things competitive for the first 35 minutes, hanging around a 8-12 point margin for the majority of the game, tensions boiled late in the third quarter when DeMar DeRozan’s emotions got the best of him as he picked up a Flagrant foul for body checking Bucks forward Bobby Portis.

“As long as I play the game, I’m big on respect,” DeRozan said. “I don’t play the whole games, staring down somebody, trying to disrespect anybody. I’m all about competing, doing your thing, all that. But if I feel anything disrespectful in any type of way, I don’t accept that. Because I wouldn’t do it to nobody else or stand over somebody or look over somebody. It’s just my respect for the game, so when I feel like it was done to me, I take it a certain way.”

DeRozan, at times, has picked up technicals for disagreeing with the officials, but it’s rare to see him lose his composure like this. It appeared Portis stared DeRozan down after securing the rebound — a sign of unnecessary disrespect.

“He did it one time, that’s all it takes for me,” DeRozan continued. “I don’t care who it is. It could be the janitor in the hallway. Look at me a certain type of way…Just play basketball. Get the rebound and play. I’ve just never been a player with the extra theatrics.”

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Of course, this wasn’t an isolated incident.

The Bucks were giving DeRozan problems all night. The Bulls star was thwarted by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Portis and Patrick Beverley all night. DeRozan finished with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting with only one trip to the foul line.

“I think as far as officiating, just call it fair,” DeRozan said. “I think that’s more so where the frustration comes from. When we come down, we feel like we getting hit. They come down and we barely touching them and they’re getting the call. That kind of stings. Just the fairness of the calls was the main focal of our frustration.”

It started from the beginning of the game. The Bucks had 10 free throws attempted in the first quarter. The Bulls didn’t have any. The Bucks doubled up the Bulls in free throw attempts on the night 32-16.

“I would just say this: I’m not gonna say what I said, but I made some comments to the officials early in the game about where this was going,” Billy Donovan confessed. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

The Bulls game plan to load up the paint and keep Antetokounmpo away from the rim was not working. He was getting to the rim, drawing fouls, and kicking the ball out to shooters around the perimeter.

On the other end, the Bulls weren’t getting the fouls they wanted, nor were they getting the shots they wanted. Since they couldn’t penetrate, they couldn’t get as many three-point opportunities. So much of the offense was mid-range oriented, and it’s tough to keep pace with an offense like the Bucks if you’re losing the battles of the rim, the three-point line, the free throw line and the turnovers.

Especially when Antetokounmpo is able to put up 46 points on 16-of-22 shooting, 12-of-16 free throws with 16 rebounds and six assists.

“We have to look at how we can respond in those situations better, how we can control the emotional level better,” Donovan said following the game. “I think that for both teams, in a large respect, not everybody got every call that they wanted. So we’re going to have to be able to overcome that.”

As things continued to boil, Alex Caruso picked up a technical foul. At one point, Ayo Dosunmu leveled Beverley after a series of uncalled hand checks on the perimeter, which boosted tensions.

But Nikola Vucevic set off the fireworks. With about 9:30 left in the fourth quarter, Vucevic took Bucks wing AJ Green out of the sky on a drive, and was ejected from the game for a Flagrant II foul.

“Just a little frustration.” Vucevic said. “Not just the no-calls. I was having a bit of a rough game, not playing as well. In the moment, lost my cool a little too much. Definitely not a foul I should’ve made. Could’ve been a dangerous play. Lucky nothing happened to AJ Green. I gotta hold my cool a little better. It happened. Move on.”

Vucevic took accountability for his actions and said he would apologize to Green after the game.

Following the ejection, the Bulls let things slip out of their control. Beverley egged on the crowd, yelling “this is my city” after scoring ten-straight points and delivering two “too small” taunts. He helped the Bucks open up a 25-point lead that the Bulls thinned out before the final whistle, but never overcame.

With the loss, the Bulls now fall to 28-32, but remain locked into the 9th seed. They ship out on a four-game West Coast swing starting Monday in Sacramento.

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