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NBA -- Chaos in Chicago

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls came into Game 2 of their first-round playoff series riding a wave of confidence after guards Jimmy Butler (25 points--a career-playoff high) and Derrick Rose (23 points) combined for 48 points on Saturday in Game 1. The talented backcourt also put up 13 assists.

Defensively, the Bulls enjoyed Pau Gasol's Game 1-high 13 rebounds, Joakim Noah's 11 rebounds, and Taj Gibson's 11 boards off the bench.

So, it was pretty surprising to see the Bulls' performance on Monday night (Tuesday Manila time) at the United Center as the Bulls got off to a pretty slow start. Game 2 started with the tables turned as the Milwaukee Bucks proved they would not be easily shut down.

The Bucks asserted their presence early, beffudling the Bulls and leading for most of the first quarter, 16-11. In the second quarter, the Bulls continued to slog through the game until the 10-minute mark when guard Aaron Brooks came off the bench to sink a 14-foot floating jump shot to stop the bleeding and start digging the Bulls out of their 9-point deficit. Jimmy Butler followed with his own three-point play, as well as Joakim Noah with a deuce, capping off a 7-0 run for the Bulls.

Then the tempers and and intensity exploded.

Just past the 9-minute mark in the second quarter, a heated argument broke out mid-court between between Aaron Brooks and Bucks forward John Henson after Henson shoved Brooks backwards onto the court. The argument escalated with Henson standing over Brooks taunting him. This caused both squads to get in each other's faces, particularly with Jimmy Butler trading barbs with Bucks guard O.J. Mayo.

However, the referees were quick to break up the melee before it got physical, and after the dust was settled, five fouls were logged in total: a personal foul against Aaron Brooks, a double technical on Joakim Noah and John Henson, and another double technical on Jimmy Butler and O.J. Mayo.

The third quarter saw a close scoring, almost bucket-for-bucket back-and-forth between both teams, with the Bulls narrowly leading 71-68. In a game where neither team had the lead by double digits until late in the fourth quarter, the theatrics that were present in Game 1 started to reappear in Game 2, capped off with a monster two-hand dunk by Jimmy Butler in the fourth which drew the foul, completing the three point play just after the 7-minute mark. Butler then re-ignited the crowd one minute later with a 3-point shot that sent the game into the biggest lead yet, 84-74.

Butler seemingly carried the Bulls on his back throughout the fourth quarter, sinking yet another 3-pointer at the 3:30 minute mark with an expression of "How is this happening?" look. Butler's impressive fourth quarter tallied 14 of his 31 points, going 4-of-5 from the field, 3-of-3 from 3-point land, and 3-of-5 from the free throw line. With his 31 points, Butler surpassed his playoff high in points, recently set in Game 1. Butler has led the game in scoring in each of the first two games this series.

Pau Gasol indicated that Butler's dunk was "a great play, but our 3 point scoring was more impartant. That's what gave us a big lift." Derrick Rose agreed. "He was huge. He's confident in his game, and it's nice to see all the work in his game pay off."

Butler himself gave credit to his teammates for his fourth quarter showing. "Jo(akim) and Derrick were telling me to score the ball, not to pass up any shots, and just be aggressive. I was feeling it a little bit, so I just put the ball in the basket. I took the shots that the defense gave me. I feel like if I keep shooting, they will eventually fall. I'm going to continue to keep shooting."

The tempers and intensity from the first half permeated into the last quarter. With less than 3 minutes left in the game, a scuffle for the ball ensued between Bulls rookie forward Nikola Mirotic and Bucks veteran center Zaza Pachulia, which got so physical that it resulted in Pachulia's ejection from the game and Mirotic suffering a left quad strain.

The physicality from both teams was to be expected by Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. "That's playoff basketball. You have the same teams going at it. A lot of it is will, determination, how bad do you want it. It is sort of the nature of the business. It's an emotional game. I want us to play with a lot of toughness. But, I also want us to play smart. So where do you stop? You stop right before it becomes physical. I don't want anyone thrown out. I don't want any of that stuff. I don't want to take our emotion away from us either. I want us to play with intelligence and play together. Controlling themselves is important."

Bucks head coach Jason Kidd echoed Thibodeau's sentiments. "It's just guys playing in the playoffs. It's going to be physical out there with guys competing like this. Both teams were playing that way."

After a tougher than expected battle, the Bulls scratched and clawed their way to a 91-82 win and preserved their home court advantage. Despite the double-digit turnovers and the rather sloppy play, the Bulls outmaneuvered the Bucks to go up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 of the series resumes Thursday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Photo: Jimmy Butler (L) gets a chest bump from teammate Joakim Noah. Butler scored 31 points to lead the Bulls to a 91-82 win over the Milwaukee bucks.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Kristy Gonowon.

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