(Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel – Getty Images)
Bulls open New Year with victorious 52-point game from Butler
Rajon Rondo didn’t play for a second-straight game, and Dwyane Wade was sidelined with a swollen left knee. Yet the Chicago Bulls fared just fine, defeating the Charlotte Hornets 118-111, and it was all thanks to the heroics of Jimmy Butler.
Butler led all players with 52 points on 15-for-24 from the field and a near-perfect 21-for-22 on free throws. But he didn’t just score; he added a team-high 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Butler truly took over the game — though he did have 20 points at halftime.
Heading into the final period, the Bulls trailed the Hornets 85-82. Charlotte never truly pulled away, as their lead only grew to as many as five points, but Chicago couldn’t turn the score in their favor until Butler got going. He completed a 3-point play to tie the game at 100 and made a technical free throw later on. Then, he made a bucket to give Chicago the 103-102 lead.
Butler went on to score 12 more points, solidifying the Bulls’ lead and earning him 17 fourth-quarter points.
Prior to that, though, the Bulls actually started out on top, but not by much.
The Bulls got on the board first, as Carter-Williams scored the first basket. This gave Chicago the edge for most of the first quarter, giving it as large as a five-point lead. Unlike past games this season, the Bulls didn’t get off to a slow start and were able to find offense. In fact, all of Chicago’s starters scored in the first quarter.
With Wade out for the game, McDermott joined the starting lineup and helped the Bulls earn a first-quarter lead. But the bench had some trouble maintaining the 25-23 lead the Bulls had heading into the second quarter.
The Hornets went on a 8-0 run to open the second quarter — during which the Bulls committed two turnovers. Charlotte’s offensive surge forced a Chicago timeout and gave Charlotte a six-point lead.
Carter-Williams hit a jumper coming out of the timeout, and Mirotic made a 3-pointer a minute later to cut the Bulls’ deficit down. This got them going and eventually led to a 12-2 run, highlighted by back-to-back Denzel Valentine 3-pointers that gave Chicago the 46-43 lead.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as the Hornets caught up and tied the game. The Bulls had enough in them to come away with the 58-57 halftime lead, though.
Charlotte came out strong in the third quarter, coming up with a six-point lead. But no lead was secure Monday night. The Bulls eventually tied the game back up at 68. From there, Butler made a free throw for a one-point lead, but Chicago faced a scoring drought afterwards. The Hornets took advantage and went on a 7-0 run.
Nikola Mirotic stopped the run with a 16-foot jumper and got the Bulls going again.
During that third quarter, McDermott failed to score but came alive again in the fourth quarter. Before Butler entered the game for the final quarter, McDermott showed off what he often did at Creighton by playing in the post. He was matched up with the smaller Jeremy Lamb, so McDermott was able to score in the paint and even hit turnaround fadeaway jumpers.
Besides Butler, McDermott, with 11 points, was one of three other Bulls to score in double figures. Carter-Williams added 10 points, and Mirotic contributed 12 points off the bench. Jerian Grant did well as the backup point guard, taking what was Carter-Williams’ spot when Rondo started, posting team-highs in assists and steals with six and four, respectively.
The Bulls, now 17-18, will face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday evening.
Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.