LIVE: Bulls hope to stay hot in Milwaukee

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LIVE: Bulls hope to stay hot in Milwaukee

Saturday, March 26, 2011
CSNChicago.comAssociated Press

(AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks are trying their best to move into playoff position. Their first victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls this season would certainly help that cause.

Looking for their fourth win in five games, the Bucks try to avoid being swept in the season series by the surging Bulls on Saturday night at the Bradley Center.

Milwaukee (29-42) has not been to the playoffs in consecutive seasons 2003 and 2004, and still has some work left to do while trying to accomplish that feat once again. Though the Bucks are tied with Charlotte for ninth in the East, they're just two games behind Indiana for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Bucks bounced back from a miserable home loss to lowly Sacramento on Wednesday with a 102-96 win at New York on Friday. Brandon Jennings scored a season-high 37 points and Andrew Bogut added 21 with 17 rebounds as the NBA's worst-shooting team (42.9 percent) made 50.6-percent of their shots, and held the struggling Knicks to 40.0 percent from the field.

"We've just got to stay with it," swingman John Salmons told the Bucks' official website.

That means finding a way to beat the Bulls (52-19), who have won 11 of 12 and own a two-game lead over Boston in the East.

Though the Bucks have held Chicago to 88.3 points per contest in the previous three meetings in 2010-11, they have also shown why they are the NBA's lowest-scoring team by averaging just 78.3 percent on 38.6 percent shooting in the season series.

Milwaukee has not been swept in a season series by the Bulls since 2006-07, and Chicago held the Bucks to their lowest point total at home this season in an 83-75 win Feb. 26.

"Their defense is unbelievable this year," Milwaukee guard Earl Boykins said of the Bulls, who rank among the league leaders holding opponents to 91.2 points on 42.9 percent shooting.

Jennings was limited to four points on 2-of-6 shooting in his only appearance against the Bulls this season during the February home defeat, while Bogut finished with six but pulled down 16 rebounds. Bogut has totaled just 18 points on 8-of-33 shooting versus Chicago in 2010-11.

The Bulls used another solid defensive effort to overcome a 41.5-percent shooting effort and beat Memphis 99-96 at home Friday for their third straight win. Though the Grizzlies shot 49.3 percent from the field, the Bulls held them to 2 of 15 from 3-point range and owned a 45-32 rebounding advantage.

"There is no space right now," MVP hopeful Derrick Rose said. "We're just trying to win every game. Even if it's by one or two points, we'll take it."

Averaging a career-high 24.8 points, Rose scored 24, including Chicago's final six points and added seven assists Friday.

"MVP. He's my MVP," Memphis star Zach Randolph said of Rose, who has averaged 19.4 points in five career games at Milwaukee.

Winners in five of six on the road, Chicago has not won consecutive games in Milwaukee since the 2006-07 season.

Bucks guard Michael Redd could be in uniform Saturday for the first time since tearing ligaments in his left knee on Jan. 10, 2010.

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap

Although the punches didn't connect, the NBA was not going to take the Robin Lopez-Serge Ibaka confrontation lightly, suspending each one game Wednesday afternoon.

Lopez served his time in the Bulls' surprising 117-95 win over the Detroit Pistons at the United Center. Per league rules, Lopez was not allowed on team property but he did speak to head coach Fred Hoiberg when the team returned from Toronto after the Bulls' heartbreaking overtime loss Tuesday.

Lopez will return to the Bulls lineup Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers, a relief to the Bulls considering the league could've taken a harsher stance with Lopez — a two- or three-game suspension was being mulled at the league office, sources tell CSNChicago.com

Lopez was pushed into Ibaka after Jimmy Butler hit a three in the second half, and the two combatants squared off underneath the rim, with officials, teammates and coaches trying to separate them.

Ibaka appeared to have his arm reaching at Lopez's neck, prompting Lopez to swing at Ibaka. He missed, and Ibaka grazed Lopez's face with a wild swing of his own.

Both were ejected after being separated and shortly thereafter, the Raptors begun their run from being down 15 points to end the Bulls' recent mastery over them.

Despite the effect, Lopez had the full support of his teammates and coaching staff.

"I think you ask anybody in that locker room, Robin Lopez is one of the most if not the most popular guy on this team," Hoiberg said. "He's a guy that goes out and approaches his job the same way every day. He goes to work. He never complains. He does what's asked of him. Also if you asked them, they'd tell you he's as passionate of a guy as we have on this team as well. He's got a fire to him that you just don't ever want to take away."

That fire clearly got underneath Lopez and Ibaka, causing Lopez to lunge at Ibaka. Telling from the immediate reaction from the Bulls players and from Hoiberg and associate coach Jim Boylen, it seems as if it wasn't the first time Lopez's engine ran a little hot.

"This game gets very competitive obviously, it gets heated at times," Hoiberg said. "That happened last night. It's unfortunate what went down, but we've all got Robin's back. I think everybody in this organization, from the players all the way to up top, has Robin's back. We'll deal with it and move on. We'll be happy to have him in the lineup Friday."

Lopez averages 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game, slightly higher than his career averages through his nine NBA seasons.

Considering the play seemed relatively tame, it was slightly puzzling to see both players go at each other so ferociously but there appeared to be more to the story than first blush.

"There's always more going on than it appears," Hoiberg said. "You go back and watch on film, there's little jabs that happen in the course of the game and sometimes it reaches the boiling point. Robin is a guy that plays this game with a lot of passion, and you don't ever want to see something like that happen, but it did. And again, you move on."

Normally, Lopez attacks mascots during timeouts or pregame warm-ups, so nobody felt Lopez was looking for an altercation, and considering it only cost him a game — one the Bulls won anyways — Hoiberg didn't seem too stressed about it beforehand.

"Yeah, you know, Robin's going to have our guys' backs as much as anybody in the locker room," Hoiberg said. "Again, you look in that locker room, all those guys are going to have each other's back, Robin as much as anybody. Unfortunately, it happened. It looked like it was a little hip check, they turned around and got squared off, and we all know what happened. Again, we'll all be excited to have Robin back in the lineup on Friday."

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