A pair of hot Central Division teams duke it out Wednesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks welcome the first-place Chicago Bulls to the Bradley Center.
The Bulls have won four of five and seven of their last nine. They have moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Indiana Pacers for first in the division.
On Monday, the Bulls outlasted the Charlotte Bobcats, 93-85. Luol Deng returned from a hamstring injury with 12 points in 31 minutes, which is 10 minutes less than he averages a game.
Jimmy Butler, who started in Deng's absence, led the Bulls in scoring with a career-high 19 points off the bench. Nate Robinson added 15 in a reserve role and Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah netted 13 apiece.
Noah's outstanding performance was dictated by scoring. He grabbed 18 rebounds, handed out seven assists and blocked five shots. It's no mystery why he was selected as an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve by the coaches in the conference.
"He is just everything," head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "His rebounding, he protected the rim, his defense, making plays and his passing, it was a terrific all around game by him."
The Bulls had a five-game road winning streak snapped on Saturday by the Washington Wizards. Their 12-6 mark outside of Chicago is the best in the Eastern Conference.
The Bucks head into this pivotal contest winners of two straight and five of six. They've won two in a row at home and pulled off a spectacular comeback on Tuesday night in Detroit against the Pistons.
Down 15 in the first quarter, the Bucks crushed the Pistons in the middle two quarters, 72-40. In the end, Milwaukee walked off with a 117-90 victory.
Brandon Jennings tallied 20 of his 30 points in the third quarter.
"What do you say about that other than 'wow,'" interim head coach Jim Boylan said.
Jennings was awesome, but Milwaukee's bench was equally sensational.
The Bucks reserves tallied 59 points, led by 17 from Mike Dunleavy, 12 from Samuel Dalembert and 11 from John Henson.
Chicago won its ninth in a row against Milwaukee earlier this season, but the Bucks bounced back with a 93-92 victory in Chicago on Nov. 26. The Bucks beat the Bulls in Chicago again on Jan. 9.
The Bulls are 20-7 in the last 27 encounters with the Bucks and unbeaten in the previous five matchups in Brew City.