The Bulls Thursday overcame a 24-point deficit against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers with an historic scoring performance from Jimmy Butler with 53 points for a 115-111 overtime victory.
Butler’s 53 points made him the only player in franchise history other than Michael Jordan and Chet Walker in 1972 to have at least 53 points in a game.
After Butler practically single handedly brought the Bulls back from the stunning first half deficit and 18 points in the third quarter, E’Twaun Moore gave the Bulls a late lead in regulation with a three-pointer.
Moore then scored the Bulls first seven points of overtime after the 76ers took a 108-104 lead, and then finally inspired Bulls defense finished off the 76ers, who are now 4-37. The Bulls moved to 23-15.
Doug McDermott had 17 for the Bulls and Moore a season high 14. Taj Gibson added 11 points and 11 rebounds as coach Fred Hoiberg stayed with Butler, Moore, McDermott, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich in the late stages of regulation and the overtime. Robert Covington had 25 for the 76ers and Ish Smith 24.
The Bulls were without Pau Gasol, who remained back in Chicago to rest a shoulder injury, and Derrick Rose, the latter who sat out with knee tendinitis. Noah started for Gasol and Hinrich for Rose and the Bulls offense came to a screeching halt. The 76ers stayed six feet off Noah, clogging the lane as the Bulls offense reverted to isolation play. The Bulls hung in with the slow play to lead 16-15 late in the first quarter before a brutal sequence of five Bulls turnovers in six possessions to end the first quarter enabled the 76ers to take a surprising 34-22 lead after one quarter on 64 percent shooting.
Then the 76ers shockingly given a 4-36 record coming in scored nine straight points opening the second quarter to take a 43-24 lead and built that to 50-26 before Butler began to drag the Bulls back driving to the basket. The Bulls behind Butler and Gibson’s rebounding scored seven straight and closed the half within 62-46 on 25 points (14 of 16 free throws) from Butler and 11 points and eight rebounds from Gibson. Eight other Bulls played and combined for 10 points. It couldn’t get worse, so it did get better.
The Bulls finally increased their pressure on defense and continued to rely on Butler. After the 76ers opened to a 66-46 lead, the Bulls hit the 76ers with a 20-5 run to get back into the game. The Bulls got a few contributions from Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott, but it was mostly Butler ramming his way to the basket and closing the quarter with a three pointer for 36 of the Bulls’ 77 points through three quarters as the Bulls headed into the fourth quarter trailing just 79-77. The 76ers behind the three-point shooting of Covington went back ahead 92-83. But here came Butler again getting the first Bulls 50-point game since Jamal Crawford in 2004, driving and scoring with threes from McDermott and Moore proving pivotal. McDermott also had a powerful dunk after a steal as the Bulls finally took a 104-101 lead with 1:17 left. But Smith tied it and the 76ers stripped Butler at the buzzer to send the game to overtime at 104.