Bucks Ambush Bulls in Key East Matchup
Milwaukee 104, Chicago 88
MILWAUKEE, March 15 (Ticker) -- Michael Redd and the Milwaukee Bucks wasted very little time shaking the Chicago Bulls off their backs.
Redd scored nine of his 23 points in a phenomenal first-quarter run as the Bucks put more distance between themselves and the Bulls with a 104-88 victory, their second straight triumph.
"We knew we had to win this game," Redd said. "Chicago always plays us tough. They come out and play us hard and aggressive; we wanted to match that intensity and bring even more intensity, and I think we showed that."
Milwaukee (32-32) came in tied with Philadelphia for seventh place in the East with Chicago (29-36) trying to close the gap. A win by the Bulls would have reduced the margin to 1 1/2 games.
Instead, the Bucks came storming out of the gates with a 23-1 run that opened a 26-6 lead less than eight minutes into the contest. They were sharper, quicker to loose balls and more energetic than the Bulls, who needed the win more.
"Starting off better - that's been a concern for our team, especially at home," Redd said. "We knew that it was very vital to do that against Chicago, who can fight all night long.
"I don't know how much space we can create, but we have to keep winning and hope other teams keep falling off. If we can keep playing like this, hopefully we can make a run at that fifth spot."
Redd had a 3-pointer, two free throws and a pair of dunks in the surge and Simmons added six points. Meanwhile, Chicago missed nine shots and committed five turnovers, with its only point a free throw by Tyson Chandler.
"Everyone knew this was a game we had to win and we came out very aggressive," Simmons said. "There's a sense of urgency. The guys know we have to win games and if we don't play together, we won't win. Every game is important and we played like it (was important) tonight."
Milwaukee held a 34-18 lead after one period, widened the advantage to 59-42 at halftime and opened its largest lead at 79-53 on a free throw by Simmons with 2:47 left in the third quarter before Chicago finally awoke, scoring the last 13 points of the period to halve the deficit.
"We pretty much got dominated all over the place," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "It was a full-on rout. We've been an unpredictable group, there's no question about that. We've had an up-and-down year in regard to our focus. Some nights we look great and some nights we don't. Tonight was unfortunately a don't."
The Bulls spent most of the fourth quarter taking two steps forward and one back. Luol Deng left after being hit in the eye by teammate Andres Nocioni, and Chicago did not pull within 10 points until Jannero Pargo's 3-pointer made it 89-79 with 4:52 to play.
Another 3-pointer by Pargo cut the deficit to 91-84 with 3:20 left before the Bulls went scoreless for two-plus minutes. Charlie Bell drained a 3-pointer and Joe Smith made a jumper and two foul shots to seal the win.
"I get the opinion sometimes that people think that there's some magic dust that the coach can sprinkle on the guys and make them aware of everything," Skiles said of his team's fading playoff hopes. "We talk about it every day about where we are. We want our guys to know where we are and what we need to do.
"Every game right now - I've said this several times - is a playoff game for us and you have to play that way. Tonight we didn't."
Smith scored 15 points, fellow reserve Bell added 13 and T.J. Ford 12 and 10 assists for Milwaukee, which shot 48 percent (34-of-71) and gained a split of the four-game season series.
"That was a hell of a win against a team that needed to win it," Milwaukee coach Terry Stotts said. "We came out with fire and energy at the beginning of the game. ... I don't think it was any secret this was an important game."
Nocioni had a career-high 25 points and nine rebounds and Kirk Hinrich added 19 and 12 assists for the Bulls, who shot under 37 percent (30-of-82) and had a two-game winning streak snapped. They have not won three in a row since Jan. 21-28.
"This was a huge game for us that we wanted to come out and get," Chandler said. "They outplayed us tonight."
Milwaukee evened the all-time series with Chicago at 98-98.