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Bulls snap 3-game skid with 93-86 win over Bucks

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Jimmy Butler, Larry Sanders

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Updated: December 26, 2012 9:49AM



MILWAUKEE — Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau still doesn’t have a feel for who can close out games consistently for him.

He’s mixing and matching his second unit, and Luol Deng and Taj Gibson are the only sure things.

And, no, Derrick Rose isn’t walking through that door any time soon, as Thibodeau reminds the media whenever the topic comes up.

The Bulls entered the last game of the 11-day, five-game road trip losers of three in a row, so Rose’s name has come up a lot lately.

“The thing is, that’s down the road,’’ Thibodeau said of Rose’s return from surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament. “It has nothing to do with now. Right now, we just got to concentrate on improvement, be ready for the next game. Whether it’s winning or losing, how you deal with it, that’s a big part of the NBA. Each day come in, have a great attitude, great approach, get ready for the next one.’’

The Milwaukee Bucks sure weren’t going to feel sorry for them, especially because the Bulls had won eight in a row from their Central Division foes, including four in a row at the Bradley Center.

Make it five in their home-away-from-home after the Bulls beat Milwaukee 93-86 on Saturday night, getting fourth-quarter contributions from two unlikely players in Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton. Not only did they lead the Bulls (6-6) in scoring with 22 each, but the fact that they were even in the game in the fourth was news.

Throughout most of the Circus Trip, Thibodeau was turning to Jimmy Butler and Gibson late in games because of their defense. Against the Bucks, he went with Boozer and Hamilton. Boozer also had 19 rebounds, including a put-back dunk with 29 seconds left that gave the Bulls a four-point lead.

The hope from both players was that Thibodeau took notice.

“You never know how long you’re going to be out there or if you’re going to be back out there in the fourth quarter,’’ Boozer said. “Me and Rip talked about it before the game, just be aggressive while you’re out there and see what happens.

“This is [Thibodeau’s] show; he runs it. He puts out there who he wants to put out there, and we just go with the flow.’’

The flow was obviously good, especially for Hamilton in the first half. He went 6-for-12 for 18 points in the first 24 minutes, working in the post against the Bucks’ smaller backcourt.

But Hamilton, who wasn’t thrilled about being on the bench in crunch time the last three games, said the Bulls put the game away in the fourth because they made life easier for themselves.

“We did a good job of slowing the game down,’’ Hamilton said, ‘‘got the ball where we wanted to get it. We got good shots.

“Just understanding time and situation. We got away from the quick shots in the fourth quarter.’’

The Bucks (6-5) still sit atop the Central Division, but the Bulls will play them again Monday and maybe they’re on to something at the end of games.

“Just hanging in there, really,’’ Boozer said. “The second half, our defense was a little better, and that’s why we won the game.’’



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