MILWAUKEE — Maybe this is what the Bulls need to kick-start their sagging season.
First, Jimmy Butler returned from missing 11 games to turf toe. Then, Mike Dunleavy banked in a game-winning 3-pointer with 5.8 seconds left and Joakim Noah, who was everywhere Friday night, blocked O.J. Mayo’s game-winning attempt at the buzzer.
Avoiding their second four-game losing streak this season and breaking 80 points for the first time in four games, the Bulls rallied from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to down the Bucks 91-90 at the Bradley Center.
Never has glass looked so beautiful.
“With (John) Henson switching out, I knew I had to get it over him so I got a lot of arc on it,” Dunleavy said. “The basketball gods gave us one back.”
Right-handed Khris Middleton had given the Bucks a two-point lead on a hanging, left-handed shot over Dunleavy that beat the shot clock expiration by 0.1 second with 29.8 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Butler traveled on a wild drive.
But Noah, who posted season-highs with 21 points and 18 rebounds and also had three blocks, tied up Gary Neal on the inbounds pass for a huge jump ball that Noah easily won. That led to Dunleavy’s game-winner.
“Joakim was a monster,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
All five starters hit double figures, including Carlos Boozer with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“This is huge,” Dunleavy said. “After all the tough stuff that has gone on, we felt like we deserved this one. If you’re resilient, eventually things go your way.”
Butler looked active and finished with 16 points and three steals in 36:35.
“I’m moving a lot better on it, jumping, pushing off, all that good stuff,” he said. “I’m not going to say that I’m the reason we’ll win games, but I feel I can help in some aspects. If it’s defense or scoring, I just want to be out there and see if I make a difference.”
The Bulls, who also unveiled new signee D.J. Augustin with Luol Deng still sidelined, need all the help they can get.
“It’s not just defensively, it’s all areas,” Thibodeau said. “He makes us function well. It’s his energy. Obviously, he’s a terrific defender. But he’s also very good offensively. He can run the floor, you can post him, he hits open shots. He makes plays so he adds a lot.”
Kirk Hinrich broke out of the horrible slump in which he had been mired, having shot 4-for-31 his previous three games. He scored 13 points with eight assists on 5-for-12 shooting.
With the Bucks up 88-83, Mayo inexplicably fouled Dunleavy on a 3-pointer with 1:23 left and Dunleavy sank all three free throws. Mayo compounded his mistake by taking and missing a deep 3-pointer, and Boozer’s jumper tied matters with 54.9 seconds left.
“We showed a lot of toughness to keep battling,” Thibodeau said. “That’s the thing about this team. There’s no quit in them. They’re going to keep fighting.”