Bulls start, finish strong in win over Bucks

Bulls start, finish strong in win over Bucks
April 4, 2014, 9:45 pm
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Mark Strotman

The Bulls led for all but 80 seconds Friday night and maintained their positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 102-90 win over the shorthanded Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center.

Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler each scored 17 points, while Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah each recorded double-doubles in the victory. Seven Bulls scored in double-figures for Tom Thibodeau's group, now winners of four straight.

The Bucks took a 2-0 advantage on a Jeff Adrien putback to open the scoring, but from then on it was all Bulls, who scored the next nine points and led by as many as 13 points in the opening stanza, eventually finishing the quarter up 27-15. Four different players had at least five points, and the Bulls scored five points off five offense rebounds to take the early lead. The Bucks were led by Khris Middleton and Adrien, who scored four points apiece.

Thibodeau’s group shot just 37 percent in the second quarter but continued its stifling defense against one of the league’s worst offenses, forcing the Bucks into nine first half turnovers. Taj Gibson got hot off the bench, scoring six of the Bulls’ 14 bench points in the quarter; the Bucks, who dressed just eight players, had two bench points in the quarter and only four in the half.

[MORE: Thibodeau focused on Bulls' improvement, not playoff seeding]

Brandon Knight got going in the third quarter for the league-worst Bucks (14-62), scoring nine points on 3-for-6 shooting. And though the Bulls shot 39 percent in the quarter, they connected on a trio of 3-pointers and made 8 of 9 free throws to keep up with Milwaukee’s frantic pace. They also assisted on 8 of 10 field goals in the quarter, extending their lead to 82-62 heading into the final quarter.

And though the Bucks went on an 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter, a Hinrich 3-pointer pushed the lead back out to 11, 88-77, and the closest the Bucks got the rest of the way was a nine-point deficit. The United Center faithful earned their Big Macs when Butler knocked down a pair of free throws with 50.7 seconds remaining.

The win keeps the Bulls tied for third in the East with the Toronto Raptors, who defeated the Indiana Pacers at home earlier in the night.