(WSCR) – The Chicago Bulls have only had their full roster healthy for a few games this season. And despite that they’re playing well enough to lead the Central Division and sit in third in the Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks know they can ill afford to struggle at either end of the floor these days. The Bulls, on the other hand, are discovering they don’t have to be perfect.
Coming off one of their ugliest wins of the season, the Bulls open a four-game homestand Tuesday night against the injury-plagued Bucks in the first meeting of a series that’s recently been defined by poor offensive performances.
Milwaukee (12-17) is currently missing leading scorer Brandon Jennings, Drew Gooden and Carlos Delfino, and has been without Corey Maggette and Andrew Bogut for stretches of the season.
That lack of consistency in the lineup hasn’t made things easy on the Bucks, the NBA’s worst scoring (90.8 points per game) and shooting (41.4 percent) team.
The Bucks are 10-3 when they score 94 points or more and 3-11 when allowing more than 92, a slim margin for error that again proved costly Monday. After holding the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento to 79 points apiece in victories to close a three-game road trip, Atlanta shot 50.7 percent while beating Milwaukee 95-80 at the Bradley Center.
“That’s it right there,” Bogut said. “I’ll even give you a quote on that: ‘When we let teams shoot a high percentage, we lose.’”
The Bulls (19-10) needed to shoot well to win last season, going 11-30 when they failed to make 45 percent of their field-goal attempts, but they’re now proving to be capable of a victory even on an off night.
Chicago is 9-7 when it shoots below 45 percent, including a 39.6-percent performance in Sunday’s 95-92 overtime victory at Detroit.
“This was ugly, but sometimes in this league, you’ve got to win ugly,” said Carlos Boozer, averaging 26.3 points and 12.1 rebounds in his last seven games. “We played a tough game, they played a tough game, and we got the win. We earned this one.”
This will be Boozer’s first look at the Bucks in a Bulls uniform, but he’s hardly unfamiliar with success against Milwaukee. He had double-doubles in his last seven games against the Bucks with Utah, averaging 23.1 points.
This series could use an offensive boost after four games last season that could hardly be described as aesthetically pleasing. Milwaukee shot 39.7 percent but won three times, including a 79-74 victory at the United Center on April 6 behind 26 points from former Bull John Salmons.
Derrick Rose averaged 18.0 points in the season series but shot only 34.7 percent.
There’s little that Rose isn’t doing well these days, however. Chicago’s third-year point guard is the only player in the league averaging at least 23 points, eight assists and four rebounds.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Bulls’ play since Joakim Noah went down is their ability to still control the boards. Chicago has outrebounded its opponents by an average of 6.0 in the five games Noah has missed with a thumb injury. That margin is nearly double what the Bulls averaged with both Boozer and Noah in the lineup.
That’s troubling news for Milwaukee, which is 3-9 when it’s been outrebounded.
Bogut figures to do everything he can to make sure that’s not the case Tuesday. In three games against the Bulls last season, he averaged 21.7 points and 13.7 rebounds.