Jimmy Butler returns, leads Bulls past Rockets 108-100

Jimmy Butler returns, leads Bulls past Rockets 108-100
Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic each returned from injury Saturday night.

Jimmy Butler returned to the Bulls’ lineup Saturday night after missing 11 games with a knee injury, and he gave the Bulls 24 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists as they snapped a four-game losing streak with a 108-100 win over the Rockets at the United Center.

Jimmy looked as if he hadn’t missed a single game, as he got to the free throw line 12 times (making 11) and harassed James Harden into 10/26 shooting from the field. But on this night, each of the Bulls “big 3” played a huge role in the victory.

Pau Gasol led the team with 28 points (9/18 FG, 10/14 FT) and 17 rebounds, and he also added six assists, two blocked shots and two steals. Derrick Rose contributed 17 points (6/10 FG, 2/4 3-pointers) and a game-high nine assists.

Nikola Mirotic also returned to the lineup Saturday, which caught most everyone off guard as he had been expected to miss another week or two recovering from his appendectomy. Niko looked as if he has lost a good 10-15 pounds, and while he only played 15:47, he did a nice job off the bench with 7 points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal. He hit 2/3 from behind the arc, both of them coming in an early 4th quarter run that pushed the Bulls lead from 8 to 17 with just under 10 minutes left.

It could be just a one-game situation, but coach Fred Hoiberg may have tipped his hand as to what his playoff rotation is going to be. Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore (25:30) and Doug McDermott (21:48) were the only bench players to log more than five minutes (Bobby Portis played 4:10 and Justin Holiday 4:00), and Aaron Brooks and Tony Snell each received a “DNP – Coach’s Decision”.

The win pushed the Bulls back into the #8 seed in the East playoff race, a game back of Indiana (tied in the loss column) and two games back of #6 Charlotte. Their next game is Monday at home against the Bucks (7 PM CT, WPWR and NBA League Pass).

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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