Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Bulls beat Knicks behind Butler's career night

Bulls improve to 16-9 on the season

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By Sam Smith | 12.17.2014 | 11:38 p.m. CT

The Bulls survived a rugged New York Knicks team playing without Carmelo Anthony to squeeze out a 103-97 victory with crucial plays in the last minute.

Jimmy Butler set a career-high with 35 points while adding seven assists, five rebounds and four steals. The sluggish Bulls without Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson got a huge lift off the bench as Aaron Brooks had 18 and Nikola Mirotic 13.

It looked like it could be a dominating performance for the Bulls even with Rose out ill and Gibson out with his sprained ankle. After a halting start with with Joakim Noah, back from missing four games with his ankle injury, Mirotic gave the Bulls a boost with good defense and assisting on three straight scores as the Bulls moved ahead 30-20 after one. The Bulls maintained that lead much of the second quarter despite defensive issues on the inside with Noah in foul trouble and Gibson out. Butler with 17 first half points and an energy shot from Brooks enabled the Bulls to lead by 11 after Kirk Hinrich and Mirotic threes. But the Knicks continued to attack inside and with second chance points (11-2 in the first half) and outrebounding the Bulls in the first half pulled within 52-45 at halftime. The Bulls eased back ahead 59-52 behind Butler, but the Knicks taking multiple advantage of second chance opportunities took a 74-73 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Observations:

  1. Jimmy Butler continued to demonstrate All-Star ability and to a national audience as he set a career-high and remained the Bulls primary offensive option with Derrick Rose out.
  2. The Bulls were the less energetic team as the Knicks were the aggressors on the offensive boards and dominating on inside and second chance points, where the Bulls generally excel.
  3. Home isn’t exactly where the heart is. But the Bulls survived another heart stopper at home to even their home record at 5-5.

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