Jimmy Butler continues to play role of ‘killer’ to perfection

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The “Killer’’ chalked up another victim Saturday.

The Hawks found out how far Jimmy Butler will go to get his friend Dwyane Wade into the playoffs.

Ten days ago, Butler said Wade (fractured right elbow) would be able to play in the postseason; his task was to lead the Bulls there.

“That’s my goal right now,’’ Butler said. “Be the killer to take us to these wins.’’

Butler’s 33 points — including two free throws with 2.1 seconds left to win it — and eight assists in 42½ minutes did the trick in the Bulls’ 106-104 victory.

The Bulls (37-39) jumped the idle Heat and Pacers to take over the seventh spot in the East with six regular-season games left.

“I wouldn’t say that’s what I’m asked to do, but that’s what I want to do,’’ Butler said of his heavy workload despite a back-to-back on tap Sunday in New Orleans. “[Coach] Fred [Hoiberg] was like, ‘Hey, Jimmy, you tired?’ I was like, ‘No. I want to play. I want to be the reason that we win.’ So he was looking out for me, telling me we had another one tomorrow.

“But I told him, ‘I’m not worried about tomorrow; I’m worried about right now.’ ”

He wasn’t the only Bull with that attitude, either.

Rajon Rondo continued his resurgence since regaining his starting spot, scoring 25 points and grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds.

“We’re not stopping at 7,’’ Rondo said. “We have a nice schedule ahead of us. We take care of what we need to take care of, we’re trying to move up even more.’’

The Hawks did make the Bulls work hard for their third consecutive victory.

Kent Bazemore increased Atlanta’s lead to 84-79 with a 37-footer at the end of the third quarter, putting the Bulls on the ropes. The Hawks carried the momentum into the fourth quarter, pushing their lead up to 10 with 9:29 left.

The Bulls cut the deficit to three with 3:11 left on a three-pointer by Denzel Valentine. Butler’s three-pointer with 1:59 left tied the game.

Dennis Schröder, who had 29 points and tormented the Bulls all game, made a jumper with 35.8 seconds left to give the Hawks a two-point lead.

But Butler stepped up again, scoring inside with 32.9 seconds to go.

After a Hawks turnover, Butler drew a foul with 2.1 seconds remaining and made both free throws.

Tim Hardaway Jr. got off a last-second three-pointer for the Hawks (39-37), but it went hard off the back of the rim.

“I see guys doing what they’re supposed to be doing out there,’’ Butler said. “Playing hard, shooting the ball when they’re open, not trying to do too much, and that’s what we need.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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