MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Chicago Bulls weren't about to squander another second half lead against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Twice this season, the Bucks have rallied in the second half to beat the Bulls, including storming back from a 27-point deficit late in the third quarter at Chicago in November.
"The fact that we lost a couple of leads against these guys before, we didn't want to let our guard down," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They are a very good team and they keep coming at you. You have to stay ready. We had a lot of guys step up."
One of those guys was Nate Robinson, who scored 16 of his 24 points in the second quarter, leading the Bulls to a 104-88 victory Wednesday night.
"Nate played with great energy, which was a huge plus," Thibodeau said.
Another key for Chicago was Jimmy Butler, a second-year pro from Marquette, who added 18 points, one shy his career high set in the Bulls' previous game, and five rebounds in a return to the arena where he played college basketball.
Thibodeau credited Butler with being valuable whether starting or coming off the bench.
"He's a big lift," Thibodeau said. "He can guard, he can score and play multiple positions and make hustle plays. He's doing a lot for us. He's a big part of this team."
Samuel Dalembert had 14 points and a season-high 13 rebounds for the Bucks. Ersan Ilyasova added 18 points and seven rebounds.
Chicago broke open the game midway through the second quarter, using a 20-4 run to take a 49-30 lead. The run included a long 3-point shot by Robinson, who capped the rally with a driving layup. He was fouled on the play by Brandon Jennings, and converted the free throw.
Robinson, who also had a breakaway dunk during the run, shot 7 for 9 from the floor during the quarter to help Chicago take a 55-37 lead at the half.
"My teammates have been teasing me all season, talking about how I'm a three-time slam-dunk champion and I didn't get no dunks," Robinson said. "My fans have been asking me when I'm going to dunk again so hopefully they'll get off my back now."
The Bulls shot 51 percent from the field in the first half, while the Bucks made just 39 percent of their attempts. Jennings and Monta Ellis, the Bucks' top scorers, combined for just 11 points in the half on 4-for-14 shooting. Jennings finished the game with 15 points, while Ellis had 12.
The Bucks stormed back in the third quarter, using a 25-14 run at the start of the period to pull within seven points. Jennings, who was ejected late in the game after being called for a technical foul keyed the comeback, scoring 11 points in the quarter.
The Bulls used a 10-6 run to close the period to take a 79-68 lead.
Chicago scored 10 of the first 14 points in the fourth quarter to extend the lead, highlighted by a breakaway dunk by Butler.