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.