Maybe it's not a great sign that Jimmy Butler's minutes increase has happened during a three-game losing streak.
The second-year forward has been a bright spot, though, since the start of the preseason. In the past three games, he has averaged 7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 21.3 minutes.
"He's done a good job," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I think some of the things he's doing right now are really what our team needs -- playing very hard on defense, running the floor, getting back in defensive transition, challenging shots, making multiple effort."
Butler logged a career-high 30 minutes Wednesday against Houston. Good timing, since he grew up in the Houston suburb of Tomball, Texas.
But the extended minutes weren't a hometown homage. Butler is playing more because he hits the boards hard and brings the kind of perimeter defense that Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton can't match.
"Sometimes when you get down -- and we've been falling behind at the start of the third quarter -- that's what we need to get back into the game," Thibodeau said.
"Some of the things that (Butler) provides are what our team needs at that particular time. So when that happens and he's getting the job done, he's going to play."
Bucks looking up:
Milwaukee (6-4) is a surprise leader in the Central Division, heading into Saturday's showdown with the Bulls at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks' most significant change happened at last year's trade deadline -- guard Monta Ellis came over from Golden State in a trade for center Andrew Bogut.
He combines with Brandon Jennings to give Milwaukee a small, quick backcourt. Most of the team's other moves added size, such as rookie John Henson, veteran center Sam Dalembert and ex-Warriors forward Ekpe Udoh.
"They're very explosive," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They're scoring the ball. They played a great game at Miami (an overtime loss on Wednesday).
"They put a lot of pressure on you because of those guards. (Mike) Dunleavy's playing great, Henson's playing great for them. It's a deep team; they're talented. They're tough.
Change in routine:
The Bulls changed up their postpractice routine Friday.
Instead of everyone spreading out for individual shooting, most of the team's veterans left the court and a 3-point contest developed between Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Vladimir Radmanovic and Marquis Teague.
Robinson appeared to be the winner.
The practice lasted for more than two hours. Not long after it ended, the Bulls boarded a coach bus for the trip to Milwaukee.