Bulls lose to Denver but Jimmy Butler likes the big picture

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Can Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade can get a refund?

When the veterans publicly called out their Bulls teammates a month ago after a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, it led to some hurt feelings, a closed-door team meeting and fines of undisclosed amounts for both men by the front office. But their actions also served a purpose.

The Bulls’ 125-107 loss to the visiting Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night wasn’t a good look, especially because it ended a four-game winning streak. But call it an off night, as the Nuggets shot a blistering 13-for-30 (43.3 percent) from three-point land while Bulls big man Nikola Jokic still had a triple-double.

In the big picture, the Bulls (30-30) are still comfortably in the seventh playoff spot in the schizophrenic Eastern Conference — and were upbeat despite the loss.

“You can’t win them all,” Butler said. “Sometimes they just play better than you. That’s what happened. We can’t hang on this one. We’ll let this go. Wins or losses, we’re in a really good place because it’s easy to correct a night like that, and we know what we did wrong, to tell you the truth.”

Butler and Wade have told other truths the last five weeks.

“Sometimes those things are healthy,” coach Fred Hoiberg said of the meeting that followed Wade and Butler’s criticism of the younger players. “Sometimes those things can end up being a positive for your team. I think I remember commenting that night — we didn’t play well against Miami [the night of the meeting]. I thought it did have an effect on how we played that night. But the hope was to have long-term benefits with getting things off our chest like we did behind closed doors that day. I think it did help us.”

Rookie Denzel Valentine said he took Wade’s remarks — about the younger players’ passion and work ethic — personally enough to hear the message but not to hold a grudge.

“I mean, it needed to happen,” Valentine said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of teams where that kind of adversity happens, but you don’t know about it because it’s behind closed doors. Ours was out there so everybody knew about it.

“Guys needed to voice their opinions, get their feelings out, man up, and I think, since then, everybody’s been bought in and we’ve been progressing. We might have lost a game here and there, but we’ve been progressing for the most part.”

Valentine certainly has, particularly with roster spots cleared at the trade deadline. He scored just seven points against the Nuggets but was still averaging 11 per game over the last three games after previously being a non-factor on most nights.

Butler praised the play of all the young guys lately — win or lose.

“I feel like we’ve come together at the right time,” Butler said. “Now we just have to keep building, and we will.”

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@suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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