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No need to worry; Gordon takes over
It's OK to come out from underneath the covers, Bulls fans. Daylight beckons.
Exhale deeply. There. Doesn't that feel better?
Admit it. Before Monday night's 110-85 shellacking of Milwaukee before another sellout crowd of 21,715 at the United Center, you had your dog-eared copy of a Bulls pocket schedule in one sweaty hand and a pile of antacids in the other.
With upcoming road games in Cleveland, Dallas and San Antonio, you had visions of choking down your TV dinner on Thanksgiving with the Bulls at 2-9, 3-8 tops.
Luckily, Ben Gordon is calmer than you.
Even if he had shot 38 percent as the Bulls' record dipped below .500 and dropped fans' blood pressure with it.
Playing with a cool scoring precision that seemed stuck on autopilot and belied his aggressive nature, Gordon tallied 37 points and a career-high nine assists to lead an all's-right-with-the-world offensive attack.
Andres Nocioni broke out of his own slump with 17 points, P.J. Brown posted his first double-double as a Bull with 13 points and 11 rebounds and Luol Deng barely missed his own with 17 points and nine boards.
"This was huge," Brown said.
Gordon scored nine points in the first quarter, 13 in the second, a meager six in the third and nine more in the fourth. He attacked the rim consistently, hit big shots when necessary and acted casually afterward, like a cat after toying with a ball of yarn.
"I just wanted to be more aggressive," Gordon said almost sleepily. "When I'm aggressive, good things usually happen."
Forget Gordon's laconic demeanor. Everyone in the Bulls' locker room knew how important it was to erase Friday night's collapse against Sacramento from the memory banks.
"We know we have a tough month schedule-wise," Brown said. "With only a couple more home games this month, this was pretty much a must-win."
The Bulls had 33 assists to 14 turnovers and shot 54.1 percent.
"In the halfcourt, Chicago probably does draw-and-kick better than any team in the league," Bucks coach Terry Stotts said.
The Bulls led by as many as 20 in building a 60-42 halftime lead thanks to 59.1 percent shooting and a ridiculous 20-6 assist-to-turnover ratio. They built this lead despite Kirk Hinrich sitting for the half's final 17 minutes 48 seconds after picking up two quick first-quarter fouls.
When Chris Duhon replaced him and picked up three fouls of his own, coach Scott Skiles went to rookie Thabo Sefolosha even though he is battling a sore right hip. Gordon impressively manned the point during this stretch. Sefolosha finished with nine points, four assists and two steals.
"He's still learning his way out there," Skiles said of Sefolosha. "But he's also calming down."
Milwaukee pulled within 88-74 midway through the fourth quarter, but a back-to-braids Ben Wallace blocked a shot by Michael Redd (30 points), and the Bulls converted it into a fast break and three-point play for Nocioni.
Wallace finished with six points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and three steals.
"Ben was outstanding," Skiles said.
He was talking about Wallace. But he also could've been talking about Gordon, whose three-pointer shortly after Wallace's block pushed the lead to 20and eased worriers around town.
"We'll be fine," Gordon said, smiling.