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Game 25: Bulls 105, Knicks 102

3 Feb 2012

Three Stars (leaderboard)
1. Derrick Rose: 32 points (.534 TS%), 4 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 steal
2. Joakim Noah: 10 points (.714 TS%), 9 rebounds, 4 blocks
3. Jimmy Butler: 7 points (.518 TS%), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block

Good win. Very good win for the venue, the opponent and the fourth game in five nights, especially after Wednesday’s debacle in Philadelphia.

We could talk about Rose scoring 15 of his 32 in the fourth quarter or Amare Stoudemire taking the Booz Cruise to his best game of the year. (He led all scorers with 34 points, his first game above 25 this season.)

But instead let’s talk about Jimmy Butler.

We had heard the rookie wing man was impressing his coaches and teammates in practice, but with Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton out, the Bulls need him to play real minutes for the first time. He delivered against Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks, playing all but a few seconds of a tightly contested fourth quarter.

Butler wasn’t more than serviceable on the offensive end, but his defense was the major reason Anthony scored only four points in the fourth. (Another reason was Stoudemire had it rolling.)

Anthony had 22 points in the first three quarters, mostly against Ronnie Brewer, so Tom Thibodeau had every incentive to give the rookie a shot. I don’t see Brewer losing his role as Chicago’s perimeter stopper just yet, but Butler could be an intriguing occasional weapon — and an obviously crucial defensive alternative to Kyle Korver while Deng and Hamilton are out.

As if this team wasn’t deep enough already.

Box Score

Record: 19-6, first in the Eastern Conference
Next: Saturday 2/4 at Milwaukee, 7:30 CT

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