By K.C. Johnson
New coach Jim Boylan chuckled pregame Wednesday night when asked if he discussed what happened the last time the Bucks visited the United Center.
“I don’t think you want to bring up the fact you were down 27 points midway through a third quarter,” Boylan said.
This time, the Bucks “only” trailed by 15 in the opening period, but the comeback carried the same weight. Preventing the Bulls from posting their first four-game winning streak this season, the Bucks stormed back behind a scintillating performance from Brandon Jennings for a 104-96 triumph.
Jennings scored 20 of his 35 points in the third period, mocking Nate Robinson’s winged airplane routine on two of his four 3-pointers in the period.
That the Bucks rallied despite beating the Suns at home on Tuesday while the Bulls rested made the victory all the more impressive. Boylan is 2-0 since replacing the departed Scott Skiles on Monday.
Larry Sanders posted eight blocks as the Bulls shot 29.8 percent in the second half and the Bucks, who lead the league in this department, blocked 15 shots overall.
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with his sixth straight double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Mike Dunleavy added 16 points for Milwaukee.
and four 3-pointers off the bench as the Bucks displayed a solid team effort.
“Sanders’ presence around the basket is intimidating,” Boylan said. “Guys go in there and are looking for him.
The Bulls’ last gasp faded when Marco Belinelli missed a wide-open 3-pointer with 69 seconds left and failed to close the 100-96 deficit. Belinelli later followed with a frustration foul on Sanders, who blocked his attempt on the next possession.
Jennings’ high-arcing teardrop jumper with 4 minutes, 59 seconds remaining continued his torrid night.
Typically, Kirk Hinrich guards Jennings, but he missed his fifth game this season with the right elbow injury suffered in Monday’s victory over the Cavaliers.
“Having Kirk out was a huge factor because of the pressure he applies to Brandon in the backcourt, which is significant,” Boylan said.
Thibodeau did his typical cat-and-mouse game regarding Hinrich’s replacement, not telling stadium personnel Robinson was starting until 20 minutes before tipoff despite Boylan already announcing it. But Robinson announced his presence quickly, sinking his first three 3-pointers and scoring 13 points in the opening period.
That’s when things were rolling for the Bulls. That didn’t last.
“We gave Jennings space,” Thibodeau said. “He’s going to make shots. We started off the game and had a good edge. Then we started trading buckets and they picked up steam. They got to every loose ball, made all the effort plays. You usually get what you deserve. We got what we deserve.
“If you don’t play with great intensity, particularly when you have people out, you’re not going to give yourself a chance to win.”