It’s a two-game winning streak for the Bulls, but a little too late now for the playoffs.
But the Bulls Monday came back from a 14-point third quarter deficit to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 121-116.
The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 23 points, including nine points in a 1:50 span with under three minutes left to clinch the victory. Butler also had 11 assists. Nikola Mirotic added 20 points and Cristiano Felicion had 16 on six of eight shooting after seven of seven Saturday over Cleveland. Justin Hoiday had 14 and Bobby Portis 13. The Bulls shot a season best 57.1 percent.
The Bulls at least guaranteed a .500 season as they went to 41-40 with one game remaining, Wednesday in the United Center against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pelicans fell to 30-51.
Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose sat out for the last two games joining Taj Gibson and E’Twaun Moore and Joakim Noah out since January after elbow surgery. So the Bulls went with their 24th different starting lineup with Jimmy Butler at point guard, Holiday at shooting guard and Felicio at center. The Bulls got off to a quick start with Mike Dunleavy and Holiday supplying the offense in a 17-10 start as they split the team’s first 14 points. The Bulls shot 55 percent pushing the ball more, but fell behind 29-27 after one quarter.
The Bulls then fell behind 45-35 four minutes into the second quarter. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg hustled Butler back into the game and he assisted on Tony Snell and Portis threes. But D-league MVP Tim Frazier with the Pelicans having nine regulars out with injuries pushed the ball at the Bulls for 10 second quarter points and a 62-53 Pelicans lead when he Felicio fouled him for three free throws with a tenth of a second left in the half.
The Pelicans looked like they’d take the game with another poor third quarter start for the Bulls, an issue no matter who plays. New Orleans went ahead 67-53 on a James Ennis three. Ennis led New Orleans with 29. But the Bulls fought their way back behind 10 third quarter points from Felicio that included a followup slam dunk in one motion on a Doug McDermott miss and then Dunkin’ Doug with a slam dunk finish on an Aaron Brooks pass to give the Bulls an 89-88 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Bulls took a 104-96 lead with 6:35 left after a McDermott layup on a Mirotic pass. But the Pelicans tied it at 106 with just under four minutes left on threes by Toney Douglas and Jordan Hamilton. Butler then gave the Bulls a 111-108 lead with 2:40 left on a tough three as the shot clock expired. He then added a pair of free throws for a five-point lead with 1:53 left and a baseline jumper with 1:01 left after a replay gave the Bulls the ball. That gave the Bulls a 115-108 lead.