Bulls again can't close out vs. Bucks

CHICAGO -- Brandon Jennings tried to warn Nate Robinson.

After listening to the Chicago Bulls' diminutive point guard chirp at him during the first half, Jennings tried to get Robinson to stop before the second half began. He didn't.

So Jennings shut Robinson up in a different way. He exploded for 20 of his 35 points in the third quarter as the Milwaukee Bucks pulled off an impressive 104-96 victory at the United Center.

"I guess he felt like he had it going, [that] he was getting the best of me," Jennings said of the trash talk. "I really don't take trash-talking too kindly, because I don't really do a lot of trash-talking. But I warned him so, hey -- it happens."

What happened to the Bulls was the same old story Wednesday night. After blowing a 27-point second half to the Bucks in November, the Bulls talked about how they would remember that and wouldn't let something like it happen again.

This time they blew a 15-point lead and played the same kind of porous defense that has plagued them off and on throughout the season.

Just when you think the Bulls have turned the corner, they spit out a performance like this one. While Robinson's trash-talking wasn't the reason the Bulls lost, it was just another example of a team that loses its focus far too often for its coach's liking.

"You usually get what you deserve," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We got what we deserved. I give them credit. They played very well and very hard. We did not play the way we should have played. We did not do the things we should have done to win. Things change quickly in this league. If you don't play with great intensity, especially with people out, you are not going to give yourself a chance to win. If you want to make it a ‘you shoot, I shoot’ type of game, you're not going to go anywhere on that."

What has to incense Thibodeau most is that his team once again took its foot off the proverbial pedal. They let a solid Milwaukee squad crawl back into the game and got outworked by a team that simply wanted it more.

"They beat us in transition," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "They played harder than us. It's disappointing because it's the second time that's happened against this team. We didn't play smart basketball. They have great shot blocking and I feel like we didn't make the extra pass like we should have. And our defense was terrible."

Over the course of the season, the Bulls have lost plenty of games they felt like they should have won. But Noah denied the notion that the Bulls were playing up or down to the level of their competition.

"This is the NBA, man," Noah said. "Everybody's good. Everybody's very good. I know you've never played against a guy like Larry Sanders. He might not be a big-name player, but he's a helluva player. He dominated the game with his defense. And [Ersan] Ilyasova, he's maybe not a big name but he's somebody who can really play the game well. So you got to give credit when credit is due.”

“They're well coached,” he added. “Brandon Jennings had a helluva game. And it's disappointing because we know how important this game was for us, but it didn't go our way."

Given the ups and downs the Bulls have dealt with this season, this loss seems fitting. They knew they were facing a team they could beat that was playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but they still couldn't get the job done. Now the Bulls are 10-9 at home. They face a hungry New York Knicks team at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

"It's tough," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said of his team’s problems at the United Center. "We lost a lot of games at home we felt like we could have won; this one, too. We wish we could go back and play it again and play it a little bit better and get this win.

“But you can't go back. We've got to move forward, learn from it and play better next time out."