The Milwaukee Bucks are inching closer to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
With their magic number down to three, the Bucks look to take another step toward the postseason when they visit the Chicago Bulls.
The Bucks, who have five games remaining, lead the Washington Wizards by three games in the race for the eighth spot in the East. Any combination of three Milwaukee victories or Washington losses gives the berth to the Bucks.
“That was a shot I had to make. This was a game we had to have,” said Cassell, who finished with 12 points and eight assists.
Michael Redd led the Bucks with 22 points and Kukoc had 15 of his 17 in the second half. Milwaukee also held Cleveland to 40.5 percent shooting, including 32 percent in the first half.
“Defensively, we battled and played with some guts that probably won the game for us,” Karl said.
Karl will be looking for a similar effort against the Bulls, who have lost four straight.
On Wednesday, the Bulls fell to the Philadelphia 76ers 108-101. Though they shot 51.4 percent from the field, the Bulls allowed the Sixers to shoot 54.3 percent.
“It was just some untimely mistakes,” Bulls coach Bill Cartwright said. “I don’t think it was them, it was us.”
Rookie guard Jay Williams turned in an impressive performance. Williams, who has been coming off the bench in recent weeks, had 23 points in 32 minutes.
STANDINGS: Bucks - 4th place, 10 GB, Central Division. Bulls - 6th place, 21 1/2 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Bucks - Payton, 20.6 ppg and 8.4 apg; Mason, 6.5 rpg. Bulls - Rose, 22.1 ppg and 4.9 apg; Marshall, 9 rpg.
SEASON SERIES: Bucks, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 10; Bucks, 93-85. At Milwaukee, after missing 18 games following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, Kukoc scored 17 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to seal the win. Anthony Mason also contributed a season-high 21 points for the Bucks. Rose led the Bulls with 19 points.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bucks - 16-23 on the road; Bulls - 23-14 at home.
INJURIES: Bucks - F Jamal Sampson (shoulder); F Anthony Mason (thigh); F Jason Caffey (back). Bulls - F Tyson Chandler (ulcer); F Marcus Fizer (knee); F Corie Blount (back); G Fred Hoiberg (tendinitis); G Dalibor Bagaric (ankle).