By Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –
MILWAUKEE — This time the Milwaukee Bucks competed at a high level against the Chicago Bulls, matching them in intensity and spirit.
But the game came down to one incredible moment of drama on Wednesday night.
The score was tied and Bulls guard Derrick Rose dribbled the ball with the clock ticking down while Bucks guard Brandon Jennings tried to check the league’s reigning most valuable player.
Rose faked a drive and bounced back to his left, launching a 20-foot shot that hit nothing but net as the buzzer sounded.
It was a dagger that gave the Bulls a 106-104 victory before a crowd of 15,389 Bradley Center fans, many of them cheering for the visiting team. The Bulls (33-8) won their eighth straight game — and eighth in a row against the Bucks — as they completed a season series sweep.
“He’s so strong and powerful,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said of Rose. “It may seem like a difficult shot but for him it’s actually not.
“He just elevated. He ended up getting a good look at the rim and put it right in.”
Rose finished with 30 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds while barely missing a triple-double. And he scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls had to fend off a determined Bucks team that matched them basket for basket.
“I love it,” Rose said. “As a kid, those are the things you dream about. It felt good. You’re on the road, playing against a team that’s giving you their all, and you hit a nice shot like that.”
Bucks guard Beno Udrih scored in the lane with 42.9 seconds left to pull the Bucks into a 102-102 tie, but Rose was fouled by Jennings on an off-balance shot and hit both free throws. Ersan Ilyasova answered by rebounding a Jennings miss to tie the score for the last time with 24 seconds left.
Ilyasova finished with a career-high 32 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucks (15-24), and Drew Gooden contributed 27 points.
Skiles again went with a two point-guard lineup featuring Jennings and Udrih from late in the third quarter until the end of the game, a formula that worked in a victory over Philadelphia on Monday.
Udrih, who shook off a knee injury to play 25 minutes, finished with 11 points and seven assists. Mike Dunleavy Jr. added eight points, eight rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes.
“We’re moving the ball and getting wide-open shots, wide-open layups,” Udrih said. “If we miss a shot, the bigs are there to get a rebound.
“If we keep playing like that, with this intensity, we’re going to be just fine. This is the effort that’s going to take us to the playoffs.”
But it was still a bitter disappointment to have Rose hit such a tough shot to win the game.
“If anything, if he was going to beat me, he was going to beat me off the jump shot like he did today,” Jennings said. “He was 0 for 5 from the three and I was just containing him from trying to get to the basket.
“I tried to make him take as difficult a shot as he could. If he hits a step-back jump shot with a hand in his face, you go ahead and take that one.”
Jennings had a rough shooting night (4 for 18), and he finished with 11 points and six assists while also working to defend Rose, who was 8 of 22.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said it was a great play by Rose to take the clock down because “it was one of those games that you felt like whoever had the ball, they were going to score next.”
The Bulls shot 52 percent from the floor (43 of 83) and were boosted by Joakim Noah’s 20-point, 10-rebound effort. The Bucks shot 48 percent from the field (42 of 88).
“Milwaukee plays tough,” Thibodeau said. “Gooden and Ilyasova played great for them. Jennings didn’t shoot a high percentage but he was in the paint. Udrih was in the paint.
“We turned the ball over which really hurt us. It put them in the open floor and gave them too many easy baskets. We made it hard on ourselves, too.”
The Bulls committed 17 turnovers leading to 25 points for the Bucks.
“In the second half we were active and trying to battle them,” Skiles said. “We made some plays when we had to make plays and gave ourselves a chance to win.”