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updated: 1/10/2014 11:35 PM

Bulls have a system, and they're sticking to it

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  • Milwaukee Bucks' Larry Sanders and Chicago Bulls' Carlos Boozer (5) go after a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, in Milwaukee. The Bulls won 81-72.

      Milwaukee Bucks' Larry Sanders and Chicago Bulls' Carlos Boozer (5) go after a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, in Milwaukee. The Bulls won 81-72.


MILWAUKEE -- After the latest low-scoring Bulls win, coach Tom Thibodeau was asked whether he cares if these games aren't necessarily eye-catching.

"You guys are into the aesthetics. I'm into the wins," Thibodeau said. "You've got to win different ways."

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Different ways?

The Bulls have been stuck in the same routine for a few weeks now. Considering the injuries, absences and trade of top scorer Luol Deng, they should probably take that as a source of pride.

With Friday's 81-72 victory at Milwaukee, the Bulls have won seven of their last nine games. The highest point total by an opponent during those 7 wins was 91 by Memphis. This was the fifth straight game the Bulls held the other team below 90 and their fourth straight victory.

"We drill it every day. We have a system and stick to it," Mike Dunleavy said. "It doesn't matter who's playing. If you have a chance to go in the game, you follow those principles and we usually get pretty good results."

The Bulls (16-18) fell behind 16-5 at the start of this one. They recovered to build a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, watched it slip to 73-72 when Brandon Knight hit a jumper with 5:09 left, then tightened the clamps.

The Bucks (7-28) are by no means an offensive juggernaut, but they finished this game with 11 straight missed shots.

"Come the fourth quarter, last five, six minutes, we bear down," Dunleavy said. "We get into it on defense. We make them take tough shots, do what they don't want to do."

Carlos Boozer, back after a two-game absence due to a sore knee, led the Bulls with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Dunleavy added 18 points, while Joakim Noah piled up 8 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists, despite being sick for the past couple of days.

While Deng made his debut for Cleveland on Friday night in Utah, the Bulls seemed to be teetering on the brink of another disaster. Taj Gibson landed on his right wrist in the first half and had to leave the game briefly. In the second half, Jimmy Butler took a knee to his left thigh and had to be helped to the bench. Both players returned to the game.

For Gibson, it was a recurrence of the injury he suffered against Boston last week, the result of a flagrant foul by Jared Sullinger and rough landing.

"I just keep falling on my wrist," said Gibson, who finished with 12 points and 6 boards on Friday, with 10 free throw attempts, matching his career-high. "It's one of those things. It's probably going to be with me all year."

"It was hard to get a grasp of the ball. I was lucky to be making the shot I did make. My fouls shots, I was just closing my eyes, 'Please.'"

Butler, who played 40 minutes against the Bucks, promised to be back on the floor Saturday when the Bulls host Charlotte.

"He's tough kid. He battles through things," Thibodeau said. "He's a fierce competitor. He's not only talented, but he competes and he brings that energy to our team. We need that toughness. That's how we have to scratch games out."

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