CHICAGO » The Milwaukee Bucks insisted this playoff series was about more than just showing up, taking their beating and learning from it.
They wanted to hang around. And that’s exactly what they are doing.
Michael Carter-Williams had 22 points and eight assists, Khris Middleton scored 21 points, and the Bucks avoided elimination again with a 94-88 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday night in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.
With a 3-2 lead, the Bulls will try to close it out again Thursday at Milwaukee. But the Bucks aren’t going quietly after dropping the first three games.
"A lot of people look at it as house money," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "You can always talk about the future, but we don’t. We don’t really understand what the future holds for us. We’ve got to stay in the present. This is what this team has done all year. They haven’t looked at the future. They’ve just stayed in the present.
"They’ve worked their tails off and they’ve put themselves in this position to make (it) a series."
They took Game 4 on a last-second layup by Jerryd Bayless and withstood several pushes by the Bulls in the fourth quarter of this one.
The Bucks regrouped after a nine-point lead dwindled to three, and they hung on again after a seven-point lead shrunk to four with just over a minute remaining.
Carter-Williams hit 10 of 15 shots while outplaying Derrick Rose. The Bucks’ guard rolled his right ankle when he stepped on Pau Gasol’s foot early in the third but came back late in the quarter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 11 points and reserve O.J. Mayo added 10. John Henson provided a big spark off the bench with 14 rebounds — 10 in the fourth quarter — and the Bucks kept the Bulls off balance most of the game.
"We believe that we can beat this team, and we felt that we shouldn’t be going home right now," Middleton said.
Gasol had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Chicago but Rose and Jimmy Butler struggled.
Rose had 13 points and six of his team’s 13 turnovers. He missed 15 of 20 shots including all seven 3-point attempts.
Butler scored 20 points but was 5 of 21 from the field. The Bulls shot 34.4 percent and hit just 4 of 22 3-point attempts.
"They came into us, put us on our heels early, and we’ve got to battle back," said Chicago’s Taj Gibson, who scored 12 points. "Every team is talented in this league. It comes down to execution and will. We just didn’t have it tonight."
The Bucks were leading 86-77 when Rose hit two jumpers and Gasol buried one of his own to make it a three-point game with 4:45 left.
Carter-Williams answered by banking in a shot, and Henson flew in for a putback dunk off a miss by Mayo to make it 90-83 with 3:15 left.
Gasol hit two free throws after getting knocked to the court with 1:04 left to pull Chicago within 92-88. But Antetokounmpo blocked a runner by Rose, and Middleton hit two free throws to make it a six-point game with 27.3 seconds left.
"Got to give credit to the Bucks for how they’re competing, how they’re giving themselves a chance," Gasol said. "But we’ve done it to ourselves. Now we have a very difficult challenge in front of us. They have momentum. They have confidence. And they go home to force Game 7. Let’s see how we play Game 6, how we react to the situation as a team."
The Bulls missed their first eight shots and fell into an early 9-0 hole before going on a 21-4 run.
But Milwaukee ended the quarter with a 23-22 lead thanks to a late surge by Middleton. He hit a 3 after a turnover by Rose and a layup after stripping Gasol to put the Bucks ahead by one.
Carter-Williams said he was in "instant pain" when he rolled his ankle. "I was able to get up, walk it off, get re-taped, do some exercises in the back," he said. "I was just going to try to come out and play to the best of my ability and help my teammates win."
Bucks: Milwaukee had dropped five straight at Chicago, including the regular season.
Bulls: Chicago had won nine straight home games, including the regular season.
HE SAID IT
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau when asked before the game if he had any comment on Cleveland ruling out the injured Kevin Love for the next series: "I don’t."