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Chicago Bulls beat Milwaukee Bucks 117-102
For one stretch of the second quarter Friday night, it felt like old times at the United Center.
Ben Gordon was raining threes, Kirk Hinrich was contributing hustle plays and more threes and Scott Skiles was soaking it all in from the bench. But instead of fist pumps, Skiles was in full brow-furrowing mode, given that he now, of course, coaches the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bulls snagged this key Eastern Conference showdown with a 117-102 victory, moving a game ahead of the Bucks for the final playoff spot and securing a critical tiebreaker by winning the season series.
Gordon finished with 34 points, while Hinrich contributed 11 points and four assists in the first half before a bruised right quadriceps sidelined him for all but 4 minutes 46 seconds of a stat-free third quarter.
Derrick Rose added a few wrinkles to Skiles' forehead, getting to the rim early and often in an aggressive outing that featured a career-high-tying 27 points.
The Bulls, who had a 29-15 edge in fast-break points, won their fifth straight home game for the first time since December 2006 when—you guessed it—Skiles coached them.
"Our No. 1 priority was to get back and we didn't make the effort," Skiles said. "Guys literally jogged while the Bulls ran by us and Ben was dressing up open threes. When 'BG' gets in a rhythm like that, all of a sudden he starts making difficult shots with guys hanging all over him."
Awkwardly effective might be a better description for Brad Miller, who labored through a brutal first three quarters that featured 1-for-7 shooting and three turnovers. But in crunch time, the veteran center delivered.
After the Bucks pulled to within 87-84 early in the fourth, Miller scored four points and fed John Salmons with a gorgeous bounce pass for another basket in a 10-2 run that provided some breathing room.
When the Bucks mounted another charge to pull within 97-90, Miller set a screen on Charlie Bell that freed Gordon for a jumper from the free throw line and a foul on Bell. After Gordon converted the three-point play, Miller tacked on two free throws for a 12-point lead.
"I couldn't believe I finally hit a shot," Miller said in typical self-deprecating manner.
The Bulls led 33-32 in the second quarter when Gordon erupted with 10 straight points.
First, he sank a 19-foot jumper. Then he hit back-to-back three-pointers, blowing on the fingers of his shooting hand as if to cool them off as he ran downcourt after one. He capped the run by drawing a questionable foul on Luke Ridnour while shooting another three, making two of three free throws.
Gordon later added another three-pointer as the Bulls made five in the quarter. Hinrich made both his attempts as the Bulls posted a 38-point quarter en route to a season-high-tying 63-point first half.
"This was a big game, and we came out and played really well," Gordon said. "We want to approach these next 19 games like we did this one, like they're all playoff games."