Bulls batter Bucks to progress into NBA final eight

Chicago came close to setting an NBA playoff record for margin of victory as the Bulls routed Milwaukee 120-66 on Thursday to complete a 4-2 series win against the Bucks and move into the final eight of the postseason.

In the day’s other playoff game, the Los Angeles Clippers pulled out an impressive road win at San Antonio to avoid elimination and square that Western Conference series at 3-3.

Amid all the Bulls’ star power, Mike Dunleavy was the unlikely top scorer with 20 points and also got under the skin of the young Bucks with some physical play that sparked retaliation.

“They had some momentum in the series, won a couple in a row,” Dunleavy said. “We came out on their court and put it on them. That’s frustrating. If anybody’s been there before, that’s frustrating, and I understand that.”

The Bulls, who move on to face Cleveland in the second round, finished four points from the NBA playoff record for largest margin of victory. Minnesota beat St. Louis 133-75 on March 19, 1956.

The game was over early, but it still featured plenty of the intensity and bad blood that marked the first five games of the series. Dunleavy drew the foul that led to the ejection of Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo for a flagrant 2 foul just before halftime.

Pau Gasol scored 19 points and Jimmy Butler added 16 for the Bulls, who started the series with a 3-0 lead before two straight wins by the defensive-minded Bucks put them back in position to tie it. Derrick Rose scored 15 points and all five Chicago starters were in double figures.

In an indication of Milwaukee’s misery on offense, no Bucks starter scored more than ZaZa Pachulia’s eight points. It was the biggest playoff loss in team history. The Bucks lost by 36 points at New York in 1970.

The Bucks were 25 of 76 from the field (32.9 percent) while Chicago was 46 of 90 (51.1 percent).

Antetokounmpo was ejected after a hard foul on Dunleavy during a 3-point attempt that sent him crashing into the front row of fans with 1:34 left in the second quarter. After a review, officials ruled it a flagrant 2.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to take a hard foul,” Dunleavy said. “We’ve all been there. There’s a time and a place for it.”

It may have been a reaction to a hand to the face that Dunleavy gave Antetokounmpo a little earlier in the game – an incident similar to contact between Dunleavy’s arm and Michael Carter-Williams’ face near the beginning of the game.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd called it a learning experience for Antetokounmpo, adding that “it wasn’t very smart.”

“He kind of got under our guys’ skins,” Pachulia said. “Especially he picked the young guys, he picked the right guys, and unfortunately our guys responded and we got hurt. But they’re going to learn from it.”

It was a rough end to a successful season for the Bucks, who were the league’s worst team in 2013-14 but turned it around to earn the No. 6 playoff season under Kidd.

“They’re not a secret anymore,” Kidd said. “They’ve got to get better if they want to compete against the best.”

The Bucks were never really in this one, though, trailing 34-16 at the end of the first quarter and 65-33 at the half.

“We got better,” Kidd said. “The whole experience of being in the playoffs, you can’t take that away from those guys, no matter if you lose by 40 or you lose by one. It’s a loss. That’s it. You move on.” Just not this year.

The Clippers forced a Game 7 against the Spurs by pulling off a meritorious 102-96 win at San Antonio.

Blake Griffin had 26 points and 12 rebounds and Chris Paul had 19 points and 15 assists for Los Angeles.

Marco Belinelli hit two 3-pointers in the final 80 seconds, including one with 14 seconds remaining, to cut the Clippers’ lead to 98-96. But Jamal Crawford hit two free throws to preserve the win.

The Clippers, who won for the second time in San Antonio, will host Game 7 on Saturday. No other first-round series this year has gone the distance.

J.J. Redick added 19 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles.