The Bulls, despite trading their best available player earlier this week, are currently on a three-game winning streak and have won six of their past eight contests.
The team only had nine players available in Tuesday’s win over Phoenix, and coach Tom Thibodeau only used eight in his rotation. The Bulls held the fast-paced Suns to 40.2-percent shooting, more than 5 percent below their season average.
Before the Bulls’ matchup Friday night in Milwaukee, Thibodeau was asked what’s clicked for the team during its nearly three-week run of success.
“Just getting guys back, that’s been the big thing,” Thibodeau said. “At one point, we were down four starters. I think now we have a little bit of a rhythm; it’s much more clear who the starting group is, who the bench guys are. Your timing and spacing are much better.”
The Bulls will get another body, big man Carlos Boozer’s, back Friday night. Boozer, who missed the previous two games with a sore knee, took part in the morning shootaround and said he felt good and played against the Bucks.
One player who clearly isn’t feeling good is center Joakim Noah, who still hasn’t spoken to media since the Bulls traded Luol Deng to Cleveland on Monday night. Noah missed practice on Thursday but participated in the shootaround and played against the Bucks.
The Bulls could use a big game out of Noah, who was a monster the last time he was in Milwaukee. Noah had his best game of the season in the Dec. 13 matchup with 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting, 18 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals in 35 minutes. He also set the screen for Mike Dunleavy, who banked in the game-winning 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left to beat the Bucks, 91-90, in that game.
Noah was silent again in the locker room Friday before tip-off.
Butler getting into rhythm
The Bulls beat a surprisingly strong Suns team on Tuesday, the day Deng packed up for Cleveland. But Jimmy Butler didn’t have a particularly good game, playing 41 minutes but scoring just 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting.
Thibodeau said before Friday’s game that Butler, who’s been beset by various injuries since before the season began, has made “good” progress recently.
“The only thing that slowed him down was the injuries,” Thibodeau said. “He started off, he was playing great in training camp, then got hurt. That set him back. Then he got off to a slow start, then started playing well, got hurt again, that set him back.
“Right now he’s getting into rhythm.”
Bulls sign Martin to 10-day contract
The Bulls signed sixth-year forward Cartier Martin to a 10-day contract on Friday. The Kansas State product had played in 25 games with the Hawks this season, averaging 6.6 points in 17.5 minutes per game.
Thibodeau said Friday that “everyone’s expected to be ready to play,” though he didn’t anticipate using Martin much against the Bucks.
“We’re excited to have him,” Thibodeau said. “He’s worked his way into the league the hard way; we like that about him. He can play multiple positions, and he’s shown that he can shoot the 3.”
Martin arrived in Milwaukee on Friday afternoon, Thibodeau said, and was told to stay ready.
“If we do play him, it would be in a very limited package, it would be out of necessity today,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll get him acclimated. The sooner he gets here and gets started, the better. But I think he’s a good fit for us.”
[RELATED: Luol Deng trade makes sense for both sides]
No timetable on Teague
Thibodeau said there was no set time for Marquis Teague to return to the Bulls. Teague is currently playing for the Iowa Energy in the NBA Developmental League.
“We talked about it a little bit,” Thibodeau said. “Right now we want him to keep playing, we think that’s important. We may use him with (rookie Erik) Murphy too.
“I like what Marcus has done down there, he’s had some good games. It gives him a chance to get into actual game situations. I like what the result has been.”
Thibodeau said he’d look at the Energy’s schedule and compare it to the Bulls’ to see when a good time would be to bring Teague back.
“It’s striking a balance between what’s best for your team and what’s best for him, as well.”
No home-court advantage
The Bulls have won the last seven games at Milwaukee, though the Bucks have won the past three games played at the United Center.
The Bucks are an NBA-worst 3-13 at home and have dropped three straight overall after a 101-80 loss to the Warriors on Tuesday.