By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- A visit to Milwaukee might be exactly what the Chicago Bulls need to end their longest slide in 2 1/2 years.
The Bulls can avoid a fourth consecutive loss Saturday night with a ninth straight win over the Central Division-leading Bucks.
Chicago (5-6) opened its five-game trip with a 112-106 overtime win at Phoenix, but has since dropped three in a row for the first time since a 10-game skid from Feb. 27-March 19, 2010. A 93-89 defeat at Houston on Wednesday dropped the Bulls below .500 for the first time since Nov. 5, 2010, when they were 2-3.
The Bulls have not dropped four straight on the road since a six-game slide Feb. 22-March 17, 2010.
"There are a lot of things we need to do," said forward Luol Deng, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Rockets. "We've just got to put a whole 48 minutes together, just got to stay mentally strong. We've got to get a win and get it rolling again."
Though the Bulls allowed fewer than 100 points for the first time five games, they are yielding an average of 94.1 minus injured star Derrick Rose and with six new players this season. Chicago gave up an NBA-low 88.2 points per contest while going an Eastern Conference-best 50-16 in 2011-12.
"Our defense is not what it used to be," said forward Joakim Noah, who has recorded 31 points in the last three games after scoring 21 against the Suns. "It's not what it was last year, that's for sure. We have to do better. Losing three in a row is unacceptable. We're better than that."
Chicago has been very good lately against the Bucks (6-4), winning the last eight meetings by an average 11.1 points. The Bulls won their fourth straight in Milwaukee when Rose sank a 20-footer at the buzzer for a 106-104 victory March 7.
With Rose still recovering from a torn ACL, the Bulls will need someone else to step up if they are to continue their success in this series. Diminutive reserve guard Nate Robinson could be that person after scoring 39 over the last two games.
Milwaukee returns home - where it's won its last two contests - but is trying to avoid a third straight defeat overall after losing 102-98 at Charlotte on Monday and 113-106 in overtime at Miami on Wednesday. Rookie John Henson had 17 points with 18 rebounds off the bench as Milwaukee overcame an 18-point deficit to force overtime.
"Small margin of error against that team," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "And we still had a shot to win the game. It just didn't go in."
Only 42.2 percent of Milwaukee's 109 shots went in. It was the most attempted by the Bucks since the 116 in a 138-133 overtime win over Golden State on March 8, 2003.
Monta Ellis averages a team-leading 20.2 points but hopes to bounce back after he was held to a season-low nine on 4-of-16 shooting against the Heat. Though Ellis is facing the Bulls for the first as a member of the Bucks, he averaged 27.7 and 49.0 percent shooting in his last seven against them while with Golden State.
Updated November 23, 2012