Butler's big night carries Bulls past Hornets

It was a Jimmy Butler special in the United Center Monday. And a special Jimmy Butler as the Bulls star scored 52 points with 12 rebounds and six assists in a 118-111 Bulls victory.

The much needed victory raised the Bulls record to 17-18. Charlotte fell to 19-16 after leading by eight points in the third quarter.

The Bulls got 12 points from Nikola Mirotic, 11 points from Doug McDermott and 10 points from Michael Carter-Williams. Fans chanted “MVP, MVP,” for Butler down the stretch as he shot free throws with Charlotte fouling.

Butler became the second Bull with more than one game of at least 50 points. Obviously, Michael Jordan is the other. This was Butler’s second after 53 points last season. Jamal Crawford and Chet Walker have the other Bulls games of at least 50 points.

The 118 Bulls points equaled a season high for the Bulls, who got big defensive plays down the stretch from Taj Gibson and Mirotic.

The Hornets had late technical fouls called on coach Steve Clifford and assistant Patrick Ewing.

Dwyane Wade sat out the game with knee swelling after playing the back to back last weekend. McDermott started with Butler moving into the backcourt with Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams started again in place of Rajon Rondo with Jerian Grant scheduled to backup at point guard. Though coach Fred Hoiberg said Rondo could get some playing time in the upcoming games. Butler was aggressive to start, driving hard to the basket with nine first quarter points as the Bulls took a 25-23 lead after the first quarter. Without Wade and Rondo, Denzel Valentine moved into the early rotation and made a three pointer to close the first quarter Bulls scoring. Charlotte stayed within a few points, and only led briefly midway through the quarter.

The Bulls then went with all reserves to open the second quarter while Charlotte still had Nicolas Batum and veterans playing and sprung an 8-0 run on the Bulls to go ahead 31-25. The Bulls got Butler back in shortly thereafter. He got four free throws driving the ball and Grant went full court with a rebound and score to get the Bulls back within 41-38 midway through the quarter. Valentine added two more threes to give the Bulls a 48-43 lead with four minutes left in the half. Butler finished the first half with 20 points. The Bulls shot 53.7 percent and led 58-57 at halftime with the Bulls reserves shooting five for eight on three pointers.

The Hornets came out fast to start the second half with an 8-1 run that sent the Bulls into a timeout. The Bulls answered with Butler, often running the point and taking charge, a Butler four-point play with 6:52 left in the third quarter giving the Bulls a 69-68 lead. Batum and Butler continued with their duel as Batum answered with a three and a drive for an 83-76 Charlotte lead with 1:45 left in the third after Valentine rolled his ankle on a missed drive. He didn’t return in the fourth quarter. The Hornets led 85-82 entering the fourth quarter with 35 points from Butler through three. With Carter-Williams and McDermott making tough shots inside, the Bulls eased ahead 88-87 early in the fourth. But the Hornets move the ball well and got a pair of easy layups with multiple passes to take a 93-88 lead with 8:35 left. Hoiberg stayed with the reserves, who moved the ball well and got back within 100-97 midway through the fourth on a Mirotic reverse and a pair of free throws. Butler kept it going for the Bulls with a driving three-point play, loose ball layup and driving score to give the Bulls a 107-104 lead with 1:58 left.