CHICAGO (AFP) – Spain’s Pau Gasol scored a career-high 46 points on Saturday to help the Chicago Bulls overcome the absence of Derrick Rose in a 95-87 triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks.
With former NBA Most Valuable Player Rose sidelined by a sore left knee, Gasol stepped it up a notch.
He improved on his previous career-best of 44 points, achieved in 2006 when he played for Memphis, and also pulled down 18 rebounds.
“He wasn’t going to let us lose tonight,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“It was a good overall night,” said Gasol. “You start making the first couple of shots, your teammates start looking for you. I was able to find good spots, get in rhythm.
“Give a lot of credit to my teammates that made a lot of great plays for me and looked for me a lot of times.”
Kirk Hinrich added 16 points and Jimmy Butler contributed nine points, eight rebounds and 10 assists for Chicago, who had endured back-to-back defeats in their previous two games.
The Bulls had connected on less than 40 percent of their shots from the floor in lackluster losses to Utah and Washington, and they were little better in that department on Saturday, shooting a collective 39.8 percent.
Joakim Noah’s offensive struggles were particularly evident as he finished with just two points.
Thibodeau acknowledged before the game that the lack of offense was “bothersome and concerning” but on the night Gasol’s contribution was enough to deliver a victory.
He scored the first seven points of the game and 20 in the first quarter as Chicago took a 29-19 lead.
He had 40 points through three quarters, and finished by making 17 of his 30 attempts from the floor and 12 of his 13 free throws.
“It was definitely a crucial game for us, to bounce back and snap that two-game skid we had,” Gasol said.
“It’s important to win at home and regain confidence and rhythm.”
A three-pointer by Milwaukee guard O.J. Mayo pulled the Bucks within four early in the fourth quarter.
But the Bulls, who out-rebounded the Bucks 51-37, scored the next six points and led by at least eight points the rest of the game.