The Bulls will take Friday’s win, mostly because the scoreboard said so. But feeling good about a 102-90 victory depends on whom you talk to.
For the first three quarters, the Bulls treated the Milwaukee Bucks as they should be treated, leading 82-62 with 12 minutes left. Coach Tom Thibodeau wanted to credit the Bucks for what transpired in the fourth quarter. Shooting guard Jimmy Butler just cared it was another win for the 44-32 Bulls.
But Taj Gibson wanted more —at least as much as a group of tired bodies could give against a basement team like the Bucks (14-62).
‘‘At times it’s going to be tough,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘Even though they’re the worst team in the league, it doesn’t mean anything, really. It’s tough because you’re playing against guys that are fighting for their jobs, fighting for their livelihood, and they’re going to play hard. We understand every win isn’t going to be perfect.
‘‘We’re looking at how [wins come]. We’re trying to sharpen our weapons, but at times it’s going to be tough. At times it’s rough. Guys’ bodies are really feeling it. But you got to keep pushing forward.’’
Especially when there’s another team in the Eastern Conference doing the same things.
On the same night the Bulls won, the Toronto Raptors got an impressive win against the slumping Indiana Pacers, meaning the Raptors and Bulls remain tied for the No. 3 seed in the East behind the Miami Heat and the Pacers.
That’s all Butler seemed concerned with.
‘‘Of course we want to win, but it’s still a learning process,’’ Butler said. ‘‘We just want to go into the playoffs and get a rhythm going.
‘‘Wins are hard to come by in this league. Every team has a roster full of NBA players, so there’s really no bad teams in this league. So when you get a win, you’re happy for that.’’
There could have been more smiles had the Bulls played the full game as they did the first quarter. They flexed their muscles early, jumping out to a 27-15 lead on 12-for-24 shooting and outrebounding the Bucks 11-7, including five offensive rebounds.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, however, the Bulls looked suddenly lethargic, unable to score a field goal until the lead was down to eight points and Kirk Hinrich hit a three-pointer with 5:59 left.
The Bucks got it down to eight again, then remembered they were the Bucks, throwing the ball away and missing shots down the stretch.
With just six games left, Thibodeau, always looking for improvement, also understands how this time of the year works, especially for a team that has been through as much as the Bulls have.
‘‘If you look at the team, look at the last three months, it tells you a lot,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘There’s a body of work there, and it’s with a new group, so they’ve adjusted to bringing D.J. [Augustin] into the mix. We’ve adjusted our style of play. We lost Luol [Deng in a trade], we lost Derrick [Rose to injury] earlier in the year, so going down the stretch here, we’ve had a tough schedule — we’ve responded well to the schedule. We’re still working. The season is not over.
‘‘You never have it all figured out. The important thing is to approach it the proper way each and every day. If we listened to you guys, we would have been done a long time ago.’’