Butler scores 19 to lead Bulls past Bobcats, 93-85
CHICAGO (AP) — Luol Deng's return couldn't slow down the latest offensive outburst from Jimmy Butler.
Butler scored a career-high 19 points and Nate Robinson added 15 as the Chicago Bulls beat the Charlotte Bobcats 93-85 on Monday night.
Deng returned to the Bulls' lineup after missing five games with a hamstring injury, and scored 12 points in 31 minutes. The Bulls won three of five without Deng as his absence was eased by the strong play of Butler, who returned to a reserve role.
After Deng injured his hamstring he sent a message that Butler embraced.
"I think it hit home the most when Luol came up to me and said, 'You can do this. This is your time, step in and keep playing the way you have been playing.' When you hear that from an All-Star, from Derrick (Rose) and Jo (Joakim Noah) that's big. I have been here for almost two years now — I think that's what I need to hear," Butler said.
"The confidence comes from my teammates, if I have an off night then they're still going to be there supporting me ... It's not going to be like this every night but I have the best teammates, it makes it easy."
It was third time in the past six games that Butler set or tied his career-high in points and his defense has also taken notice after slowing down Kobe Bryant in a win against the Lakers on Jan. 21.
"Jimmy is playing great for us right now. We need that. He just has to keep growing and get better. He plays so hard. He's been patient and he's been working hard on his game," Deng said. "I'm just so happy for him that because it takes time to understand the NBA game. There are still a lot of areas he can get better at but what he's shown so far is just his hard work and he's going to keep getting better."
Noah finished with 13 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists to help Central Division-leading Chicago win for the seventh time in its last nine games.
Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon led the Bobcats with 18 points apiece. Charlotte has lost nine of its last 11 games.
Chicago pulled away late in the third quarter behind Robinson. After Walker's jumper erased a 14-point deficit and tied the score at 55, the Bulls scored 13 straight points. Robinson sparked the run with a pair of 3-pointers then had a steal to set up a dunk by Butler to put Chicago up 68-55.
"When things weren't going their way on the other end (offense), they did a solid job of defending throughout the entire game," said Gordon.
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