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Rookie Joakim Noah led the Bulls to a 114-111 win over the Bucks on Saturday with 18 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Bulls 114, Bucks 111 (F)
Noah had a season-high 18 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks to lead the Bulls to a 114-111 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night after nearly squandering a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls couldn't hold an 18-point lead earlier in the month at home against the 76ers and dropped a game to the Wizards after leading by 20 points in the second half.
"For some reason that's something that we've been struggling with all season,'' Noah said. "I think it's all about being on the same page. We pulled together at the end and we got stops when we needed them. But I think we just have to do a better job of more consistent defense for 12 minutes especially in the fourth quarter.''
Larry Hughes scored 19 points and Luol Deng added 16 to help the Bulls win for just the fourth time in 12 games. Chicago pulled 3 1/2 games behind eighth-place Atlanta for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Michael Redd scored 33 points to lead the Bucks, who lost for the 12 time in 14 games in March. Charlie Villanueva scored 15 of this 26 points in the third quarter, and Mo Williams added 13 points for Milwaukee.
"The talent is here. We got it, it's just a matter of doing it,'' Villanueva said.
Trailing 98-77 with 11:08 left in the game, the Bucks rallied with a 19-2 run over the next 4:05 to pull within four. Villanueva had a three-point play, Bobby Simmons hit a 3 and Ramon Sessions made two free throws during the spurt.
"Very happy the fact that we responded even though we were down 20-plus at one point,'' Redd said. "We just did a terrific job of just fighting.''
Thabo Sefolosha's 3-pointer stretched Chicago's lead to 109-100 nearly 3 minutes later.
Yi Jianlian made two free throws and Redd had a three-point play and a driving layup in the Bucks' 7-0 run to pull to 112-109 with 32.4 seconds left.
Hughes then made two free throws 18 seconds later to finally seal the win.
"It has a lot to deal with confidence. Once we figure that out we will be fine,'' Hughes said.
Leading 33-26 in the second quarter, the Bulls stretched their advantage with a 15-4 run during 4:11 span. Andres Nocioni scored six points during the stretch and gave Chicago a 48-30 lead on a driving layup with 6:13 to go in the second quarter.
The Bulls shot 57 percent in the first half and led 67-54 at the break.
Notes: Chicago was without F Drew Gooden (abdominal strain) and C Aaron Gray (back spasms). ... Bucks G Charlie Bell is out with a MCL tear and Milwaukee also missed C Andrew Bogut (nasal fracture). ... The Bulls had their 85th consecutive sellout. ... Nocioni finished with 17 points as a reserve.