MILWAUKEE (AP) - With Joakim Noah back in the lineup, the Chicago Bulls are starting to feel pretty good about themselves.
Fueled by Noah's 17 rebounds and Luol Deng's 19 points, the Bulls pulled away from the Milwaukee Bucks for an 83-75 win on Saturday night.
Chicago has won six of seven to improve to 15-4 since Jan. 14, putting pressure on Boston and Miami at the top of the Eastern Conference. Derrick Rose added 17 points for the Bulls, who beat the Heat 93-89 on Thursday night.
It was Noah's third game back following right thumb surgery.
``We are getting into a nice rhythm now that everyone is back,' Rose said. ``Noah has come back and really helped us. I think we can get nothing but better as the season goes along.'
Noah said he is starting to feel more comfortable on the court, but knows he can play better.
``The more I'm out on the court, the better I feel and the more energy I have,' he said. ``The longer we get to play together, I think we are going to find out how good we can be as a team.'
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored a second-high 16 points and John Salmons added 14 points for the Bucks.
Earl Boykins entered the game for the first time in the fourth quarter and scored Milwaukee's first 10 points of the period. Salmons hit a 3-pointer to trim the Bulls' lead to 78-72 with 3:56 remaining.
Rose then drove the lane and hit a wide-open Kyle Korver, who drained a 3-pointer. After Andrew Bogut hit one free throw for the Bucks, Korver made another jumper with 2:21 remaining to put the game away.
Carlos Boozer added 13 points for Chicago, which shook off a slow start to take the opener of an important five-game road trip.
``I like our team. Every night you get it from somebody different,' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ``Both units are playing well right now. We still have to clean some things up, but I think the consistency is there now.'
The Bulls grabbed control midway through the third quarter. Trailing by one, they put together a 19-5 run to grab a 66-53 lead on Deng's reverse layup with 1:27 remaining. Boozer had eight points in the surge.
Milwaukee made just eight of 23 shots in the third.
``Their defense is unbelievable this year,' Boykins said.
Bucks coach Scott Skiles was impressed with Noah's energy and his nine offensive rebounds in the first half.
``I don't know if I've ever seen that,' Skiles said. ``I didn't play with Wilt Chamberlain.'
NOTES: Bucks F Ersan Ilyasova missed the game due to a concussion he suffered in a collision in practice on Friday with center Jon Brockman. He is listed as day to day. ... The Bucks recalled rookie F Larry Sanders from Fort Wayne of the NBA Development League. ... Chicago improved to 12-0 against Central Division teams.
The Associated Press News Service
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