Butler busts out for 52 in Bulls' 118-111 win

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[January 03, 2017]  CHICAGO -- Even playing without two of his fellow starters on Monday night, Jimmy Butler refused to change his mindset. Butler knew he might have to be a little more aggressive offensively than normal, but nothing else would change.

Especially his mission of doing what he needs to in order to giving the Chicago Bulls the best chance of winning.

Butler took charge late and finished with 52 points, 12 rebounds and six assists as the Bulls defeated the Charlotte Hornets 118-111 at the United Center.

The Bulls, playing without injured guard Dwyane Wade and benched point guard Rajon Rondo, surged behind Butler and came up with some key defensive stops down the stretch to win for just the fourth time in 12 games while snapping a two-game losing streak.

Butler was a huge reason

"I think it's an understatement to say Jimmy was phenomenal tonight," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He did it every which way."

Butler, who was 15 of 24 from the field and 21 of 22 from the free-throw line, took over in the final minutes when the Bulls created some distance from the Hornets. Butler scored eight straight points and split two free throws with 23 seconds remaining to give Chicago a 112-106 lead.

Butler then capped the scoring with two free throws with 7.1 seconds remaining for the Bulls, who outscored the Hornets 36-26 in the final 12 minutes.

"I was just playing basketball," Butler said. "I just had a groove."

Doug McDermott, starting in place of Wade, scored 11 points for the Bulls (17-18), who also got 12 points off the bench by Nikola Mirotic. Michael Carter-Williams, starting in place of Rondo, had 10 points.

Butler's teammates fed off his lead as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 12-2 in the final 1:39 as the Hornets couldn't stop Butler down the stretch.

"Our defense is soft," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "We can't just pick and choose when to play it."

Kemba Walker led Charlotte (19-16) with 34 points and 11 rebounds to go along with 19 points by Nicolas Batum. Jeremy Lamb (15 points) and Spencer Hawes (10 points) reached double figures for the Hornets.

Butler's 3-point play with four minutes remaining tied the score at 100. A Butler offensive rebound and basket gave Chicago a 103-102 lead.

Carter-Williams then responded to a Marvin Williams basket, which put the Bulls back on top after the Hornets, who had been surging before losing to defending NBA champion Cleveland on Saturday night, rode some early third-quarter momentum to take the lead.

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 Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) grabs a rebound during the first quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

 Paced by Walker, Charlotte used an 8-1 run to start the second half to eventually build an eight-point lead before the Bulls made their late surge in the fourth quarter, which has become an issue for the Hornets.

"It's been our problem for the last couple of games and the last couple of weeks," Batum said. "We just stop scoring and stop making plays. It was another big loss for us."

How big of a victory it was for Chicago remains to be seen. After winning for the first time in three games heading into a road test at Cleveland on Wednesday, the Bulls are hoping Monday's win can be a sign of things to come. Butler said after the Bulls finished the year struggling, he and his teammates need to find a way to string together some victories.

An impressive showing by Butler and his supporting cast was a step in the right direction.

"I think this is kind of a statement game," McDermott said. "New year -- we just kind of (have to) change our attitude. Coach Hoiberg kind of told us that in a meeting today -- let's just forget everything that has happened and move forward. And we just really responded to his message tonight and I think it's great to see."

NOTES: The Hornets placed C Cody Zeller in concussion protocol on Monday. The team said in a statement that Zeller was struck by an elbow in Saturday's loss to Cleveland. There is no timetable for his return. Roy Hibbert, who was the starting center earlier this season, replace Zeller on Monday night. Zeller is averaging 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. ... G Marco Belinelli (ankle) did not play. ... Bulls G Dwyane Wade missed Monday's game with swelling in his left knee after experiencing soreness following the second game of a back-to-back. Coach Fred Hoiberg hopes to get Wade back on Wednesday at Cleveland. ... Bulls G Rajon Rondo was out of Hoiberg's rotation for the second straight game. Michael Carter-Williams started for Rondo. Jerian Grant picked up reserve minutes. Hoiberg said at Monday's shootaround that he would consider using Rondo in a reserve role but hasn't discussed that option with Rondo.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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