Milwaukee (29-35) at Chicago (28-34)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 66° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Fri Mar 6, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Thanks in part to their recent play at home, the Chicago Bulls have moved into a virtual tie with the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

A matchup between the teams at the United Center on Friday night will give the Bulls a chance to move ahead of their Central Division rivals.

Chicago (28-34) won its fourth straight at home Wednesday night, 110-88 over Golden State, to move within a percentage point of Milwaukee (29-35) in the East after the Bucks lost 91-73 at Cleveland.

The Bulls are 7-7 since the beginning of February, going 5-1 at home and 2-6 on the road.

“To tell you the truth, I really don’t know,” rookie point guard Derrick Rose said of the difference between the Bulls’ home and road play. “We’ve been trying to figure that out the whole season. The only thing I can say is that we need to be consistent, no matter where we are at, here, Mars, anywhere, we still have to play more consistent and together.”

That was the case Wednesday night against the lowly Warriors. John Salmons had 23 points and seven rebounds, Joakim Noah added 14 points and 17 boards and Brad Miller finished with 19 points and six rebounds.

Salmons is averaging 15.3 points and 5.1 rebounds while Miller has registered 11.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in seven games since both were acquired from Sacramento on Feb. 18.

“Guys like John and Brad, veteran players, they have a good feel for the game. As they get more acclimated with what the team is doing, we will be even more productive,” coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Milwaukee was playing well leading up to the Feb. 19 trade deadline and didn’t make any moves. The Bucks, though, lost 113-104 to the undermanned Bulls the night Chicago pulled off the trade for Salmons and Miller, starting a 2-6 stretch for Milwaukee.

The Bucks have dropped three in a row on the road over that span and are 11-23 away from home this season. They opened 2008-09 with a 108-95 loss in Chicago on Oct. 28.

Milwaukee had its lowest-scoring game of the season Wednesday in Cleveland, shooting 37.3 percent from the field. Richard Jefferson continued his strong play with 29 points on 10-for-20 shooting, but the rest of the Bucks went 18-for-55 from the field.

“They played better than us in almost all areas,” coach Scott Skiles said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t play hard, but they played harder than us.”

Jefferson, who leads the Bucks with 18.5 points per game, is averaging 23.4 since the beginning of February.

Skiles is 1-2 this season against the Bulls, who fired him Dec. 24, 2007, after he went 165-172 in four-plus seasons as coach.

The Bucks have dropped six straight in Chicago and are 2-13 there since the start of the 2001-02 season, with the only two victories coming when Skiles was coaching the Bulls.

“Milwaukee is a good team and they are playing good right now,” Rose said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win.”

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Friday, Mar 6