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Big Ben's performance a grabber
Ben Wallace's tip-in just before the halftime buzzer of the Bulls' 117-111 victory over Milwaukee on Friday night didn't just serve as his 15th rebound en route to a 27-rebound game.
"That's as good a performance as I've ever seen," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "That was amazing."
The tip-in served as a metaphor for the Bulls' night, which was often ugly but ultimately euphoric.
Wallace's basket, one of his many big plays in his second straight monster game, came after Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas had missed layups.
How fitting for Wallace to clean up a mess just as the Bulls' franchise-record, eight-game homestand ended. Keeping their house in order is a major team goal after a 21-20 mark at the United Center last season.
The Bulls went 7-1 on this homestand, are now 10-2 at home and have moved three games above .500 for the first time this season.
"When I looked at eight home games, the thought did occur to me that we could run the table," Skiles said. "I'm happy with the way we've played in this building. That's something that bugged us last year. I don't know of any good team recently that has gone deep in the playoffs that hasn't had a very good home record. That's how they get there."
The Bulls got there the hard way against Milwaukee, playing well early, then looking disorganized and then almost blowing a 15-point fourth-quarter lead.
Wallace's dunk with 2 minutes 33 seconds remaining off a feed from Chris Duhon pushed the Bulls' lead to 108-105 after a frantic Bucks comeback.
Wallace, who also had 10 points, six assists and three blocks, then fed Thomas for a dunk with 66 seconds left when Milwaukee had closed to 110-108.
But Maurice Williams' three-point play with 24.7 seconds remainingfollowing two missed free throws by Thomascut Milwaukee's deficit to 112-111.
Then Ben Gordon hit two free throws. Following a Michael Redd miss, Thomas split two free throws with 16.3 seconds remaining.
The Bulls received contributions from unlikely sources.
Thomas had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
Those included an alley-oop dunk off a perfect fast-break feed from Wallace with 74 seconds remaining in the third and a spectacular block of what looked like an easy Brian Skinner layup with 44 seconds left and the Bulls up four.
Duhon had 19 points, eight assists and five rebounds. And wily veteran Adrian Griffin helped lead the charge that built the 15-point, fourth-quarter lead, finishing with seven points and three rebounds.
Wallace's back-to-back 20-rebound efforts marked the first time a Bull had done so since Dennis Rodman on April 7 and 9, 1998. Wallace, who played all but the final six seconds and left to a standing ovation, also posted the most rebounds since Rodman grabbed 27 on Dec. 29, 1997.
Milwaukee missed 18 of 34 free throws and was led by Redd's 32 points.
Skiles started playing rotation roulette in an ugly second quarter that featured eight Bulls turnovers and plenty of indecision and sloppiness against Milwaukee's zone defense.
Nocioni scored 10 points and Wallace had nine reboundsjust under his averageby the end of the first quarter alone.