CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls put seven players in double figures and played just well enough to hold off the Milwaukee Bucks 102-90 on Friday night at the United Center.
Guards Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler led the Bulls (44-32) with 17 points each, while guard D.J. Augustin and forward Carlos Boozer added 14 points each. Forward Taj Gibson scored 13.
Milwaukee owns the league’s worst record, but didn’t go quietly, trimming a 22-point deficit down to eight in the fourth quarter. Forward Jeff Adrien’s jumper with 7:11 left capped a 10-0 run and brought the Bucks within 85-77.
Milwaukee had two chances to pull closer, but after a missed shot and a turnover, Kirk Hinrich’s 3-point basket gave the Bulls some breathing room at 88-77. The Bucks got within eight points twice more before Chicago pulled away with a quick four-point run, which included a Gibson putback, a technical foul on Brandon Knight and two Bulls free throws.
This result ended a streak of eight consecutive wins by the road team in this series. The Bucks had won the last three at the United Center.
Milwaukee had just eight healthy players for this game. Among the missing were guard O.J. Mayo (ankle), forward Ekpe Udoh (ankle), center Miroslav Raduljica (ankle), forward Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) and guard Nate Wolters (broken hand).
Knight led the Bucks (14-62) by scoring 22 points before fouling out. Adrian added a career-high 21 points and guard Ramon Sessions had 13.
A mild skirmish in the third quarter resulted in a technical foul on Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton. It started when Knight swiped at the ball and struck Augustin in a sensitive area. Augustin fell to the floor, called time out and was angry when getting to his feet. Middleton shoved Augustin and got the technical.
There were three more technicals in the fourth quarter for arguing calls, by Gibson, Knight and Chicago center Joakim Noah. Rookie forward Giannis Antetokounmpo also fouled out for Milwaukee.
The Bucks started the game quietly, falling behind 13-4 as the Bulls attempted twice as many shots (14 to 7) during the first six minutes of the first quarter. Chicago’s largest lead of the first half was 48-29 with 3:37 left before halftime after a drive and dunk by rookie Tony Snell.
Milwaukee got within 63-53 midway through the third quarter. A few minutes later, back-to-back 3-pointers by Augustin and Mike Dunleavy put the Bulls ahead 80-60.
NOTES: Milwaukee C Larry Sanders was suspended five games without pay for violating the NBA’s drug policy. In a statement released by the team, Sanders acknowledged that he was penalized for using marijuana. Sanders is out with a fractured orbital bone and is not expected back this season, so he may not serve the suspension until the start of next season. … Chicago released rookie F Erik Murphy on Thursday, setting the stage for further roster moves. The Bulls are looking to add veteran help for the playoffs, but probably won’t sign anyone for a few days. “I thought he did a great job for us and I thought he had gotten significantly better,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Murphy. … Thibodeau on aiming for a particular playoff seed: “A lot can happen. So there’s too many variables to even think like that, I think.”
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