Following Wednesday night's disappointing 95-90 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Chicago Bulls closed out their four-game homestand with a bounce-back, hard-fought 107-100 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at the United Center. The Bulls improved to an Eastern Conference-best 17-4, 9-1 at home.
The Bulls placed four starters in double figures against the Bucks (7-11). After telling reporters he would remember how the Pacers celebrated their win Wednesday, Derrick Rose scored a season-high 34 points on 14-for-24 shooting in 37 minutes of action. Big men Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer took advantage of the Andrew Bogut-less visitors and dropped a combined 35 points, 29 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and four steals. Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, starting in place of Rip Hamilton (thigh, groin) and Luol Deng (wrist), respectively, both combined for 5-for-22 shooting, but C.J. Watson, who missed all six of his attempts against the Pacers, provided a lift off the "Bench Mob" and poured in 13 points on three three-pointers, nailing a two straight late in the first quarter.
The Bulls led 30-27 through one quarter of play and 51-50 at halftime. Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who quietly came into the game averaging 20.2 points and 5.5 assists, lit it up in the first stanza with 19 points on three field-goals from beyond the arc. Former Bull Drew Gooden added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the road team. However, the Bulls started the second half on a 14-4 run to take a 65-54 lead with six minutes, 45 seconds left in the third and never looked back.
While the Bulls were not able to break the game open, as the Bucks hung around and made a bit of a surge in the fourth quarter, coach Tom Thibodeau's squad was never truly threatened -- largely thanks to the way Rose turned his game up a notch following the opening period. The reigning NBA MVP will admittedly deal with pain for the rest of the season, but he probably had his most aggressive night attacking the basket of the season. He went to the line 10 times, making six. The 6-foot-3 point guard once again proved he's head-and-shoulders above his nightly counterpart, limiting Jennings to just six points in the final three frames.
As a team, the Bulls shot 45.6 percent from the field but just 5-for-17 from three-point land. Ranking first in the league in rebounds per game, they were outrebounded by the Pacers 44-41 on Wednesday, but the defensive-minded squad controlled the glass on Friday, grabbing 50 boards compared to the Bucks' 43. The Bulls piled up a whopping 20 offensive rebounds, as Noah added eight, including 16 boards overall. Taj Gibson returned from a three-game absence and had two points and four rebounds while missing 3-of-4 shots.
The Bucks shot 42.4 percent from the field and a paltry 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) from downtown. Thibodeau will not be pleased with the fact that his bunch gave up 32 fourth-quarter points and that they were not able to completely put the Bucks away. Still, the Bulls certainly played with much more tenacity than Wednesday's contest -- which the reigning Coach of the Year now expects them to keep up as they enter a tough portion in their schedule.
Next up, the Bulls have a day off Saturday before embarking on a season-long, nine-game road trip on Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat (14-5) at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Bulls don't play again at the United Center until Feb. 14.