Butler did it: Bulls pulls away for 109-94 win over Bucks

MILWAUKEE -- Jimmy Butler rarely passed up opportunities to share the ball. Nikola Mirotic took advantage of his open shots.

Inspired by unselfish play, the Chicago Bulls pulled away in the second half for a 109-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Mirotic tied a season high with 28 points, while Butler had 20 points and a career-high 14 assists. It was the third straight game with double-digit assists for Butler, who is also Chicago's leading scorer (23.6 points).

"My mantra is always to pass the ball to the open guy whether it's late game, early game," Butler said.

Chicago has won two of three games, with Butler reaching double-digit assists and Mirotic scoring 28 in each victory. Against Milwaukee, Mirotic was the beneficiary of open looks with Butler and Rajon Rondo (nine assists) drawing defenders on drives into the lane.

"I just don't think we trusted our defense tonight like we should have," Milwaukee forward Khris Middleton said. Butler and Rondo "did a great job of collapsing our defense and finding guys."

It's an ideal formula for the Bulls to stay in the playoff picture with eight games left in the regular season.

Chicago was tied with Detroit coming into the day, 1 1/2 games behind Miami for the final playoff spot. The Bulls also finished the season series against Milwaukee at 1-3 this season, avoiding a sweep to their Central Division rival.

Coach Fred Hoiberg hopes his team can build off this win with games coming up against defending champion Cleveland and another playoff hopeful, Atlanta. The Bulls also outrebounded Milwaukee 49-34.

"We've got to understand what makes us successful," Hoiberg said. "When we're committed to moving the ball like we did today ... trying to put them in spots on the floor where they're maybe not as successful and when we rebound."

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Bucks.