Bulls-Bucks Preview

A visit to Milwaukee might be exactly what the Chicago Bulls
need to end their longest slide in 2 1/2 years.

The Bulls can avoid a fourth consecutive loss Saturday night
with a ninth straight win over the Central Division-leading
Bucks.

Chicago (5-6) opened its five-game trip with a 112-106 overtime
win at Phoenix, but has since dropped three in a row for the first
time since a 10-game skid from Feb. 27-March 19, 2010. A 93-89
defeat at Houston on Wednesday dropped the Bulls below .500 for the
first time since Nov. 5, 2010, when they were 2-3.

The Bulls have not dropped four straight on the road since a
six-game slide Feb. 22-March 17, 2010.

“There are a lot of things we need to do,” said forward Luol
Deng, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Rockets. “We’ve
just got to put a whole 48 minutes together, just got to stay
mentally strong. We’ve got to get a win and get it rolling
again.”

Though the Bulls allowed fewer than 100 points for the first
time five games, they are yielding an average of 94.1 minus injured
star Derrick Rose and with six new players this season. Chicago
gave up an NBA-low 88.2 points per contest while going an Eastern
Conference-best 50-16 in 2011-12.

“Our defense is not what it used to be,” said forward Joakim
Noah, who has recorded 31 points in the last three games after
scoring 21 against the Suns. “It’s not what it was last year,
that’s for sure. We have to do better. Losing three in a row is
unacceptable. We’re better than that.”

Chicago has been very good lately against the Bucks (6-4),
winning the last eight meetings by an average 11.1 points. The
Bulls won their fourth straight in Milwaukee when Rose sank a
20-footer at the buzzer for a 106-104 victory March 7.

With Rose still recovering from a torn ACL, the Bulls will need
someone else to step up if they are to continue their success in
this series. Diminutive reserve guard Nate Robinson could be that
person after scoring 39 over the last two games.

Milwaukee returns home – where it’s won its last two contests –
but is trying to avoid a third straight defeat overall after losing
102-98 at Charlotte on Monday and 113-106 in overtime at Miami on
Wednesday. Rookie John Henson had 17 points with 18 rebounds off
the bench as Milwaukee overcame an 18-point deficit to force
overtime.

“Small margin of error against that team,” Bucks coach Scott
Skiles said. “And we still had a shot to win the game. It just
didn’t go in.”

Only 42.2 percent of Milwaukee’s 109 shots went in. It was the
most attempted by the Bucks since the 116 in a 138-133 overtime win
over Golden State on March 8, 2003.

Monta Ellis averages a team-leading 20.2 points but hopes to
bounce back after he was held to a season-low nine on 4-of-16
shooting against the Heat. Though Ellis is facing the Bulls for the
first as a member of the Bucks, he averaged 27.7 and 49.0 percent
shooting in his last seven against them while with Golden
State.