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Jimmy Butler continues to shine as most of the East is crumbling

NEW ORLEANS — They’ve survived dysfunction in their own front office, a season-ending injury to their second-best player (Dwyane Wade) and an ever-changing lineup.

So overcoming an angry ‘‘Boogie’’ on Sunday wasn’t a problem for this Bulls team.

Jimmy Butler had 39 points and Bobby Portis chipped in 21 points and 11 rebounds, and the Bulls held off a fourth-quarter charge from an agitated DeMarcus Cousins to win their fourth consecutive game and improve to 38-39 with a 117-110 victory against the Pelicans.

The win was the Bulls’ sixth in their last eight games, and it solidified their playoff position while most of the East crumbles around them.

The Hawks, Heat, Bucks and Pacers lost, and the Bulls, still in the No. 7 spot, are only two back from the fifth spot.

And they were loving every minute of it.

While the players were doing postgame interviews, they were cheering on the Cavaliers in their double-overtime victory over the Pacers.

“What happened?’’ Butler yelled to his teammates in mid-interview after the locker room erupted.

After scoring 33 points and playing 42½ minutes in the victory Saturday against the Hawks, Butler played almost 39 minutes against the Pelicans.

“There’s no doubt about [Butler being in the top five of the MVP conversation],’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “A true sign of the MVP is what your team is without him. Look at our numbers when Jimmy is on the floor; we’re really good. And he makes other guys better. That’s the thing this year with putting the ball in his hands as much as we have. He not only creates for himself, but he’s making the right play and getting the ball to other guys and setting them up for easy shots.’’

Butler saw it as just another day’s work.

“Yeah, I’m dialed in,’’ he said. “I think I’m rolling. I’m playing well, I’m doing what my team needs me to do and we’re winning. That’s all that matters.’’

And the workload is not an issue at all.

“I just look back to the summer,’’ Butler said. “I’m tired every day during the summer, but we still get up, we still work hard, we still do what we’re supposed to do. But on top of everything else, I just want to win. I think my will to do that is going to overcome all the fatigue.’’

His will eclipsed Cousins, who got physical in the fourth quarter during a comeback attempt.

With the lead down to six, however, Butler came up with a huge block, then made a jumper with 19 seconds left to stem the comeback.

“We just have to worry about ourselves,’’ Hoiberg said about the remaining regular-season games. “Every day, get in the gym, get in the film room, continue to learn, continue to make positive strides as a basketball team. I’ve been really happy with our guys’ approach lately, and hopefully it continues like that these last five games.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.



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