Bulls never trail in 102-98 win over Bucks

The Bulls survived to play another day.

The Bulls Sunday lost almost all of a 19-point first half lead, but then when the Milwaukee Bucks got within one late in the fourth quarter, the Bulls got big scores from Justin Holiday and Jimmy Butler for a 102-98 victory.

The win kept the Bulls slim playoff hopes alive as they went to 39-38.

The Bulls were led by Butler with 25 points and eight assists, Nikola Mirotic with 19 and Pau Gasol with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 for Milwaukee and Jabari Parker had 24. The Bulls play in Memphis Tuesday.

Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose were out again with injuries, and, obviously, Joakim Noah remained out for the season after shoulder surgery. The Bulls went again to start with Butler, E’Twaun Moore, Gasol, Bobby Portis and Mike Dunleavy. The Bulls got on top early as coach Fred Hoiberg again tried to get Dunleavy going, and Dunleavy opened with a three this time. Gasol added another for a 9-4 Bulls lead and 15-8 midway through the quarter and 24-16 with 2:35 left in the first when coach Fred Hoiberg went to the bench. Dunleavy had added a second three, though the Bulls gave him a tough assignment trying to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo. He had 16 points as Milwaukee closed the quarter 8-0 to tie at 24 after one.

The reserves rebounded—and shot—nicely to open the second quarter as Doug McDermott had a dunk off a Justin Holiday drive and pass and Nikola Mirotic rediscovered the three-point range. Cristiano Felicio also dunked on a roll and the Bulls pulled ahead 41-30 with 6:06 left in the half. The Bulls then extended that to a 50-32 lead with Moore finding Mirotic open in the corner for another three. With Mirotic’s third three, the Bulls took a 57-41 halftime lead.

The Bulls gave much of that up quickly as the Bucks opened the second half with seven straight points as the Bulls began walking into offense again. The Bucks got within 61-56 five minutes into the quarter as they attacked the Bulls with speed. Butler stopped the run with a three and then a physical drive, and then Gasol added one of those long armed finishes to reclaim a 10-point lead. But the Bucks behind Antetokounmpo with 27 after three quarters kept coming and got within 79-73 going into the fourth quarter.

The Bucks then made it a game as the Bulls continued to let Antetokounmpo get deep and then spin right, his move almost every time. He had a drive and two free throws and with the Bucks pushing the ball they drew within 85-84 with 7:21 remaining. The Bucks then made big plays on defense with Antetokounmpo with a come from behind block on a fast break and Tyler Ennis tying up Holiday on a fast break. The Bulls were hanging onto an 87-86 lead with 4:56 left. Butler then came back with two big baskets, one a baseline spin and dunk past Antetokounmpo for a 91-86 Bulls lead with 3:04 remaining. The Bulls then got a big corner jumper with the clock running down from Justin Holiday and then elbow pullup jumper from Butler with 51.7 seconds left for a 97-93 lead.