The Chicago Bulls have been nearly unbeatable at the United Center this season. Monday night the Bulls will have another chance to add to their win column when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bulls have reached the 30-win mark under Tom Thibodeau more than a month earlier than last season, but the first-year coach wants a more complete effort from his team, especially against opponents with losing records.
The Bulls will try to do just that Monday night at the United Center against the sub-.500 and injury-plagued Milwaukee Bucks.
Chicago (30-14) topped league-worst Cleveland 92-79 on Saturday night for its 10th win in 11 home games, but only after nearly blowing a 20-point lead. The Bulls had their advantage cut to 77-75 with 4:37 left before pulling away.
Derrick Rose had a team-best 24 points and is averaging 28.0 during a 5-1 stretch for Chicago, which won its 31st game in 2009-10 on Feb. 26.
“Every team is good and the challenge for us is to be a 48-minute team,” Thibodeau said. “You have to learn to play tough with the lead and we didn’t do that.”
Thibodeau’s Central Division-leading club has won 21 of 27 but has lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Charlotte twice – all below-.500 teams – over that stretch.
“When we play a great team, (lapses) haven’t been a problem,” forward Luol Deng said. “It’s the below .500 teams that give us a problem. Teams are coming in here ready to play us. We can’t allow ourselves to (let up) against teams.”
The Bulls led 27-15 after one quarter at home against Milwaukee on Dec. 28 but trailed by a point at halftime. Chicago held a three-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter before launching a 16-4 run in the 90-77 victory, which snapped a three-game slide to the Bucks (16-25).
Carlos Boozer had 24 points in that win to match Deng and had 20 on Saturday after missing three games with a sprained left ankle.
“I was a little rusty,” said Boozer, who also grabbed 10 rebounds. “I didn’t have the lift I wanted to have. I couldn’t rebound the way I wanted to. But I pushed through it.”
Milwaukee probably wishes it could get some of its players healthy. John Salmons, who scored a team-best 18 against the Bulls in the December loss, is dealing with an ailing right hip.
Former Bull Drew Gooden has an injured left foot, and leading scorer Brandon Jennings (17.9 ppg) is hoping to return soon from a broken left foot.
Without Jennings and Salmons, the Bucks scored at least 100 points in consecutive games for the second time this season during their back-to-back wins. That streak ended as one of the league’s lowest-scoring (91.2 ppg) and worst-shooting (42.2 percent) teams returned to form in a 94-81 home loss to Memphis on Saturday night.
The Bucks shot 37.8 percent in that defeat and Earl Boykins was 8 of 22 while scoring a team-best 23 points.
“We had so many good looks again. We had our chances to create some momentum for ourselves, and we unfortunately just couldn’t knock them down,” coach Scott Skiles said.
Skiles is 4-5 against his former team, which has won nine of 10 matchups with Milwaukee at the United Center.
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