(SportsNetwork.com) - Playoff basketball returns to Milwaukee Thursday night when the Bucks try to get a game in this series against the Chicago Bulls at the Bradley Center.
It's been two years since Milwaukee hosted a playoff game and in between, the Bucks finished with the worst record in the NBA.
They are down 0-2 and have lost the first two in Chicago by an average of 10.5 points.
On Monday, the Bulls won, 91-82. They held the Bucks to an average of 86.5 points through the first two contests in the Windy City.
All-Star guard Jimmy Butler scored 14 of his playoff career-high 31 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bulls in Game 2. The 25-year-old Butler's previous playoff career-high of 25 points was set in Saturday's opening win over the Bucks.
"A lot of my scoring goes to (my teammates) for drawing so much attention," Butler said.
Derrick Rose was dreadful in the first half, but scored all 15 of his points after halftime and added nine assists and seven rebounds. Pau Gasol had 11 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks, and Joakim Noah ripped down a game-high 19 rebounds for the Bulls, who have won eight of the last nine against their Central Division rival.
"So far so good," Gasol said. "We just played two games and won both of them. Rebounding is a key factor, especially this time of year. We have to keep working on it."
After a lackluster opening half, Rose fired in a 3-pointer less than two minutes into the third for his first points of the night that pushed the Bulls ahead 46-42. Rose, who scored 23 points in his return to the playoffs after nearly three years on Saturday, netted 12 in the frame to help Chicago to a 71-68 lead after three quarters.
Milwaukee, which made 4-of-17 shots from beyond the arc, began the fourth on a 6-0 run to gain a three-point edge, then Butler supplied 10 points during Chicago's subsequent 13-0 surge for a 84-74 lead.
The Bucks cut their deficit to five with four minutes left in the game, then Butler followed a technical free throw from Rose with a 3-pointer that made it 89-80.
Milwaukee was limited to just one basket over the final four minutes of the game as Chicago maintained the homecourt advantage.
For the Bulls, Nikola Mirotic is out for Game 3 with a knee injury. Kirk Hinrich was a full participant in practice and should be back in the lineup.
Khris Middleton, playing in his second career postseason game, led Milwaukee with 22 points Monday. Michael Carter-Williams was the only other Buck in double figures with 12 points.
"We're going to fight to get this series back to even and protect our home court," Middleton said of the Bucks' mindset going forward.
The Bucks beat the Bulls at the Bradley Center on April 1 to snap a nine-game home losing streak to their rivals. Game 4 will be Saturday evening in Milwaukee.