Game 2 gets chippy between Bulls, Bucks, but Jimmy Butler throws last punch
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There’s a fine line between playing physical playoff basketball and dirtying up a game.
The Milwaukee Bucks might have crossed it during the Bulls’ 91-82 victory in Game 2 of a first-round playoff series Monday. They at least put their toes near it and inched it forward.
‘‘I didn’t see exactly some of the plays, but certainly [they] tinkered with it,’’ Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. said when asked whether the Bucks’ antics crossed the line. ‘‘But, you know, it’s hard to say.’’
What wasn’t hard to say was that guard Jimmy Butler took over when the game was in doubt. He scored 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bulls grab a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 3 scheduled for Thursday in Milwaukee.
‘‘Huge, huge,’’ guard Derrick Rose said of Butler’s late-game performance. ‘‘It’s always a plus when you’ve got a guy that talented and confident in his game. We’ve seen him put the work in, and he’s actually out there showing that it’s paying off.
‘‘If anything, it pushes us as a team to work on our game individually. With everyone doing that, it gives us a good chance to win.’’
And it wasn’t only Butler’s 14 points in the fourth quarter; it was the level of difficulty the majority of those baskets entailed.
With the Bulls trailing 74-71 early in the fourth, Butler made a tying three-pointer. He then made the second of two free throws to put the Bulls ahead before Tony Snell followed with a three-pointer. Butler then converted a three-point play after being fouled on a dunk to put the Bulls ahead 81-74 with 7:07 left.
He wasn’t done, either. He added another three-pointer, a free throw and another three-pointer down the stretch to all but put the Bucks on ice.
‘‘Just be aggressive,’’ Butler said of his outburst. ‘‘Jo [Noah] and Derrick were telling me to score the ball, like literally telling me to shoot and not to pass up any shots. I was feeling it a little bit, so I just put the ball in the basket.’’
He also put the Bucks’ backs against the wall.
‘‘They’re a pretty talented roster,’’ Bucks coach Jason Kidd said of trying to stop Butler, who scored 25 points in Game 1. ‘‘Almost any guy can go off for them.’’
While Butler’s fourth-quarter effort was the big story, there was an undercurrent of chippiness the Bucks brought to Game 2. A combined seven techincal fouls and the ejection of Bucks center Zaza Pachulia were evidence of that.
It started with Bucks big man John Henson apparently shoving Bulls guard Aaron Brooks down near halfcourt, then standing over him in the second quarter and ended with Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic and Pachulia getting tangled up and having to be separated in the fourth.
Mirotic reportedly had a swollen left knee after the game and limped out of the locker room. The Bulls called the injury a strained quad that will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
‘‘Guys are physical; guys want to win,’’ Dunleavy said. ‘‘I’ve never been in a playoff series where it hasn’t gotten chippy. You’re playing the same team over and over and over again, and it’s all part of it. We’re going to go up there, play clean, play hard and see what happens.’’