clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Butler, Gibson, Mirotic help Bulls snap 4-game skid

Jimmy Butler looks to pass against Trevor Ariza (left) and Dwight Howard of the Rockets on Saturday. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It might not have survived a Tom Thibodeau critiquing session.

But the Bulls’ defense, bolstered by Jimmy Butler’s return, delivered enough to carry Fred Hoiberg’s scuffling crew to a 108-100 victory Saturday over the Houston Rockets at the United Center.

‘‘It felt good,’’ Butler said. ‘‘It felt even better to get a win.’’

The Bulls, who snapped a four-game skid, gave up 100 points for the 16th consecutive game. At least the Rockets, who shot 40 percent, didn’t hit the century mark until there were 32.7 seconds left.

‘‘You see the impact Jimmy has with his ability to make things difficult for the elite wing players in this league,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. ‘‘I liked the way we came out of the gate. I thought we had a good defensive mindset from the jump ball on.’’

The Bulls, who had lost eight of 11 games without Butler, not only welcomed their star back from a knee injury. Taj Gibson (hamstring) joined Butler in the starting lineup after a one-game absence. And Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis) made a surprisingly good appearance far sooner than expected, scoring seven points in 16 minutes.

The Bulls’ freewheeling offense resulted in a troubling 26 turnovers — a reminder that this team is a work in progress.

There are no guarantees with these befuddling Bulls, who seem to show off their talented roster one game and look like basket cases the next.

But with Butler back and everyone (except out-for-the-season Joakim Noah) seemingly healthy, securing a playoff slot in the remaining 21 games seems very do-able. The Eastern Conference isn’t exactly loaded with juggernauts.

How good can a healthy Bulls squad be?

‘‘Who knows?’’ Butler said. ‘‘We’ve talked about it all year long. We can be really good when we guard. When you guard, you give yourself a great chance of winning.’’

This victory moved the Bulls (31-30) above .500 and into eighth place in the East.

They’re only 9-18 since Jan. 7, when they stood 22-12. Since then, eight players have missed a total of 70 games.

‘‘No excuses for the guys we had previous to this game,’’ said Derrick Rose, who had 17 points and nine assists. ‘‘But tonight was a good win for us. We got into the open court. It all started with defense. When we stop people, we’re very dangerous with the shooters we have and the way me and Jimmy put pressure on the defense.’’

Pau Gasol led the Bulls with 28 points and 17 rebounds.

Most encouraging, though, Butler played well, showing no signs of rust. He finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes before fouling out with 2:34 left.

Defensively, Butler flustered Rockets star James Harden into a 3-for-10 first half, even jumping in front of him for a second-quarter steal and dunk.

Harden kept at it, though, finishing with 36 points on 10-for-26 shooting when fouls limited Butler.

‘‘It was great to have [Butler] back,’’ forward Mike Dunleavy said. ‘‘His energy was awesome. He provided a huge boost for us, especially on the defensive end dealing with Harden. We look forward to keeping him healthy.’’

In the second quarter, Hoiberg’s status as the last NBA coach without a technical foul this season seemed in jeopardy. But the bench infraction was given to an assistant coach.

It was that kind of upbeat night for the getting-healthy Bulls.

Follow me on Twitter @HerbGould.