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Career night for Gasol boosts Bulls

Bulls improve to 26-12 on the season

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By Sam Smith | 1.10.2015 | 9:31 p.m. CT

The Bulls delivered a strong punch, a Pau if you will, Saturday with a 95-87 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks behind Pau Gasol’s 46 points (career-high) and 18 rebounds.

Kirk Hinrich added 16 points as the Bulls led most of the game and kept a comfortable lead much of the fourth quarter. The Bucks were led by Brandon Knight with 20 points.

The victory gave the Bulls a 26-12 record and 12-7 at home. As streaks go, it was their fourth win in the last six.

The Bulls thus broke their two-game losing streak, though not their shooting miseries as they battled below 40 percent most of the game, well below other than Gasol and sixth game in the last eight shooting below 40 percent.

It was a big start for Gasol against a generally small team, the Bucks who use a floating variety of small lineups with curious matchups and matchup zones. The Bulls have had some issues of late, other than the Houston game when Gasol had 18 first quarter points, of establishing the post early. They did so quickly Saturday as the Bulls blew out to a 19-7 start on the way to a 29-19 first quarter lead with Gasol scoring 20 points. With Derrick Rose out with a sore knee and Mike Dunleavy missing his fifth straight game with an ankle injury, it was a mixture of lineups with Tony Snell starting at guard for the Bulls. The Bucks play mostly small lineups with unusual matchups which scramble the game and confounded the Bulls some with the second quarter reserves of the reserves and the Bucks pulled within 36-31. But Gasol returned and stabilized the Bulls offense as the Bulls went on to lead 48-39 at halftime behind Gasol with 28 points and nine rebounds. Jimmy Butler was playing mostly facilitator with Rose out with seven assists at the half. But the Bulls’ shooting remained uncertain at six for 23 at the half for everyone other than Gasol. The Bulls fell behind 51-50 but with Kirk Hinrich making a pair of shots recovered and then began to find Gasol with the mismatch and went into the fourth quarter leading 68-62 behind Gasol’s 40 points.

Observations:

1. The Bulls got back to establishing their post game going through Pau Gasol, who had another big start and huge game. The theory is to open the court for better shots, though the Bulls shooting overall remained poor.

2. Rose appears to be operating conscientiously by not pushing himself too hard during the regular season to build toward the playoffs. It was the first game Rose missed in the last 12 in a heavy stretch of games.

3. Jimmy Butler showed his versatility with Rose out, moving the ball and setting a new career-high with 10 assists.