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Bucks beat Bulls, up three games in East race

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks finally built an
insurmountable lead and damaged a division rival's playoff hopes in
the process.

Bobby Simmons scored 26 points, going 9-of-13 from the field,
and Michael Redd added 23 to lead the Bucks over the Chicago Bulls
104-88 Wednesday night.

Milwaukee (32-32) got back to .500 for the first time since
March 1 and split the season series with Chicago (29-36), which now
trails the Bucks by 3½ games and the Philadelphia 76ers by three
for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"That was a hell of a win against a team that needed to win
it," Bucks coach Terry Stotts said. "I don't think it was any
sweeter, this was an important game and we came out ready, had
confidence, made shots. It was a fun game."

The Bucks are eyeing the fifth spot, trailing Indiana by one
game and Washington by 1½.

"There's a sense of urgency as far as the playoff run,"
Simmons said. "If we don't play together, we won't win."

Milwaukee, which had lost five of its last six at home, made
sure Chicago was out of it early -- leading by as many as 24 in the
first quarter.

"That's been the one concern for our team -- start out better,
start out fast," Redd said.

T.J. Ford had 12 points and 10 assists, while Joe Smith had 15
points and Charlie Bell 13 points for Milwaukee.

Andres Nocioni scored a career-high 25 points for Chicago and
Luol Deng had 15 before leaving the game in the fourth after
Nocioni poked him in the eye. Kirk Hinrich added 19 points.

"It's unexplainable," Hinrich said. "Go up and down a line of
this team and everybody would say the same thing. For whatever
reason as a group, we weren't ready."

Chicago went on a 13-0 run to end the third quarter after the
Bucks took their biggest lead at 26, but still trailed 79-66 going
into the fourth.

Milwaukee, which had blown a 17-point second-half lead to lowly
Atlanta two nights earlier before coming from behind to win, only
led 91-84 after the Bulls made four consecutive shots, including a
3-pointer by Jannero Pargo with 3:19 left.

But Chicago could get no closer.

"Our focus was a lot better," Ford said. "I think we
understand the situation that we're in right now."

The Bulls' poor play was a far cry from how coach Scott Skiles
had billed the game earlier in the evening.

"It's as important as a regular-season game can get," Skiles
said.

Chicago didn't show it.

After Ben Gordon hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring for the
Bulls, they went on a 5-minute scoring drought, missing 10
consecutive shots and only managing three free throws.

"We didn't look right. Right from the jump ball we weren't
aggressive defensively," Skiles said after the game. "Tonight we
were a step slow and they made us pay for it."

In the meantime, Milwaukee hit eight out of nine from the field
and had a 13-0 run, capped when Ford led a 3-on-none break and
found Redd for a dunk to make it 26-6.

Chicago committed 10 first-half turnovers, contributing to 21
points for the Bucks, who led 59-42 at the break.

"We pretty much got dominated all over the place," Skiles
said.

Game notes
Bulls G Chris Duhon missed his second straight game with
lower back pain. ... Milwaukee is 2-0 in a stretch of six straight
games against opponents with losing records. ... The Bucks are 2-8
against the rest of the Central Division, while the Bulls are just
1-9. ... Redd went 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. He's hit 108 of
his last 114 attempts (94.7 percent). ... Skiles did not have an
update on Deng's injury after the game.