ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 09:  Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls reacts after a basket against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 9, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Bulls ride Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler to 100-92 win over Magic

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Dwyane Wade trusts his natural feel for the game when it’s time to defer and allow Jimmy Butler to take over down the stretch.

The 14-year veteran guard also knows when his new team needs more of him late in the games. He sensed it Tuesday night, scoring seven of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to propel the Chicago Bulls to 100-92 road win over the struggling Orlando Magic.

It was the second straight game that Wade took over in the fourth quarter to lead Chicago to victory.

“Each game is different and it calls for something different,” Wade said of how he and Butler play off each other. “Like I said earlier in the year, I think we are both more dynamic when we are both able to score.”

Both took turns in the fourth as the Bulls pulled away in otherwise close game. Butler scored six of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as they took turns pulling up for jumpers and driving to the basket against a Magic team that was playing without three of its top four guards.

But Wade just seemed to have a little more energy as he played the role of scorer and facilitator in setting up his teammates for easy baskets throughout the fourth quarter.

“He’s been huge lately,” Butler said. “He’s taking and making shots, tough ones at that, passing the ball to the open guy. Me and him both decided to miss a couple of wide-open layups tonight, that’s part of it. But he has been huge.”

His performance took a little pressure off Jerian Grant, who was inserted back into the starting lineup at point guard before the game. Wade’s vision also played a part in backup center Cristiano Felicio‘s 12-point, 10-rebound performance.

“He is obviously a guy who can get it going at any time,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said of Wade. “He had three big buckets going into halftime to get him some confidence and little rhythm and then was awesome in the fourth quarter to close the game.”

TIP-INS

Bulls: Chicago shook up its point guard position before Tuesday night’s game. Grant replaced Carter-Williams in the starting lineup. Hoiberg said Carter-Williams, who didn’t play, has been demoted and will come off the bench and did not immediately name a backup, although Rajon Rondo was the first off the bench.

Magic: Injuries caused the Magic to shuffle their starting lineup for the second game in a row. With Augustin out with an ankle injury from Sunday’s loss to Golden State, Vogel shifted C.J. Watson, who started at shooting guard Sunday, to backup point guard and coming off the bench. Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon both started at the wings to match up better against Butler and Wade, Vogel said. Fournier, the starting shooting guard, missed his sixth straight game with a sore right foot. …The MRI on Augustin’s sprained ankle came back negative but he is listed as day-to-day. … Meeks had surgery on his right thumb Tuesday morning and is out indefinitely.

DEPLETED BACKCOURT

With Evan Fournier, Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin all out with injuries, the Magic’s backcourt struggled.

That was most evident in the 19 turnovers the team committed. Point guard Elfrid Payton, who had to play 38 minutes because of the lack at the position, committed eight of the costly turnovers.

“Well, they’re good at turning teams over and we know we can’t over penetrate,” said Orlando coach Frank Vogel. “But we’re missing our shooting guards so it’s a little bit of a challenge with what we have in terms of perimeter shooting.”

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Felicio, who struggled with catching the ball in the paint early in the season, thrived underneath most of the night when Chicago went to its smaller lineup.

He defended Nikola Vucevic decently in the paint and when Butler and Wade found him for lobs inside he made good, converting four of six.

UP NEXT

Bulls: Chicago returns home to take on the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

Magic: Orlando hits the road for a three-game stretch with Boston as the first stop on Friday night.

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.

Report: 76ers trading Ersan Ilyasova to Hawks for Tiago Splitter, picks

Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Dunleavy blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 110-93. (AP Photo/John Amis)
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The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.

That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.

But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.

And Atlanta will get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.

In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.

Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.

Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George becomes more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.