Kurt Helin

Watch Jimmy Butler drop 52 to help Bulls top Hornets

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CHICAGO (AP) — Following a year of inconsistency and disappointment, the Chicago Bulls entered 2017 with plenty of resolutions.

There’s one thing, however, they are hoping remains the same – the production of Jimmy Butler.

Butler scored 52 points and outdueled Kemba Walker, carrying Chicago in a 118-111 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night.

Butler was a point shy of his career high, which he got Jan. 14, 2016 at Philadelphia. He scored 20 points in the first half and 17 in the game’s final four minutes.

“It’s an understatement to say he was phenomenal. He did it in any which way,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He just took what the defense gave him and obviously made huge plays down the stretch.”

Butler also had 12 rebounds and six assists while shooting 21 of 22 from the free-throw line. He has scored at least 25 points in four straight games, and his performance Monday surpassed his previous season high of 40 points, which he notched Wednesday against Brooklyn.

“I was just playing basketball,” Butler said. “I didn’t even know how many points I had. I just had a groove. Coach kept drawing up the same play.”

Walker went blow-for-blow with Butler for much of the game, boosting his All-Star candidacy with 34 points and a season-high 11 rebounds. Walker, who scored 37 points against Cleveland on Saturday, notched consecutive 30-point games for the first time since March 7-9, 2016.

Still, Hornets coach Steve Clifford saw room for improvement from everyone – his star included.

“(Walker) did a good job on offense,” Clifford said. “But we have to try on defense, all of them. Our defense is soft and they pick and choose when they want to play. It’s not going to work.”

Charlotte, which entered Monday ranked among the top defensive teams in the NBA at 102.6 points allowed per game, has surrendered 119.5 over its last two losses.

Nikola Mirotic had 12 points and Michael Carter-Williams finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for Chicago.

Nic Batum, who recorded a triple-double in Charlotte’s victory over Chicago on Dec. 23, had 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. Jeremy Lamb added 15 points off the bench.

Charlotte led Chicago for much of the second half until Butler’s three-point play with four minutes remaining tied the game at 100. Carter-Williams’ jumper at 2:33 gave the Bulls a lead they would not relinquish.

STILL NO LOVE FOR RONDO

Rajon Rondo, who indicated he may ask for a trade after being benched both Friday and Saturday, again received no floor time in Monday’s win. The 11th-year guard is averaging 7.2 points and 7.1 assists per game.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Cody Zeller entered the NBA’s concussion protocol Monday after taking an elbow to the head in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s contest with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has no timetable for return. Roy Hibbert started in place of the injured Zeller. … Marco Belinelli (left ankle sprain) missed his fifth straight game.

Bulls: Dwyane Wade sat with swelling in his left knee. The 34-year-old veteran noticed the swelling Saturday night after playing in back-to-back defeats. Hoiberg does not believe the issue warrants an MRI, and Wade could return Wednesday against Cleveland. … Rookie Denzel Valentine, who had played just four total minutes over his last seven games, played 18 minutes and hit his first three 3-pointers, finishing with nine points. He exited with an ankle injury in the second half.

 

John Wall with between-the-legs assist to Marcin Gortat for dunk (VIDEO)

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John Wall is finding his groove, he won Player of the Week honors in the Eastern Conference last week after averaging 24.3 points, 13 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals a game in the Wizards three wins.

He was making plays Monday night, too, such as the between-the-legs assist to Marcin Gortat for the dunk.

It wasn’t enough. Eric Gordon had 31 and the Rockets picked up the win, 101-91.

Another game, another ridiculous Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk (VIDEO)

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No player scores more points in the paint per game than Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. At 13.6 per game, he’s ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan. It’s because the Greek Freak has the ball in his hands and relentlessly and athletically attacks the rim.

He picked up a couple more Monday night, dunking over Thunder rookie Domantas Sabonis.

The Bucks went on to win the game 98-94 behind 26 and 10 from the Greek Freak.

 

Bulls’ Dwyane Wade out Monday with knee swelling

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CHICAGO (AP) — Bulls guard Dwyane Wade has been ruled out for their game against Charlotte because of swelling in his left knee.

Wade is averaging 18.8 points in 32 games in his first season with his hometown Bulls. He could return Wednesday against Cleveland.

Wade noticed the swelling following Saturday night’s loss to Milwaukee. Coach Fred Hoiberg says the team hoped to avoid using the 34-year-old veteran on back-to-back nights, but felt he was healthy enough to play this past weekend.

Doug McDermott will start in place of Wade on Monday night.

Wade missed two previous games this season, both for rest.

Rajon Rondo still glued to Bulls bench for now, if it lasts he will push for trade

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So far, everyone has been very professional.

Once again, Michael Carter-Williams will start at the point Monday when the Bulls host the Hornets, and Jerian Grant will back him up. A call made by Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg. Which means, Rajon Rondo will remain on the bench.

Rondo hasn’t played since he was a -20 in the first half against the Pacers last Friday, and that isn’t going to change in the short term. But so far, the tensions have not bubbled to the surface, reports Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

Hoiberg continues to praise Rondo for his professionalism and how he handled the demotion, as Rondo professionally and patiently answered questions about the situation Saturday night following the Bulls’ 20-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

But when it comes to Rondo re-entering the rotation, Hoiberg says he’s open but it doesn’t seem like there will be an opening, nor has he had a discussion with Rondo about being a reserve behind Carter-Williams.

But if this situation continues, Rondo will ask out.

It doesn’t appear Rondo’s feelings about wanting to be elsewhere if things don’t change have changed since the calendar have turned to 2017, when he stated he would hope the Bulls would work with him on a trade or release so he could explore situations where he could play.

“Absolutely,” said Rondo when asked if he felt he accomplished enough in his career to warrant that accommodation.

It’s too early to say yet how Carter-Williams with the other starters will pan out (they have only played 21 minutes as a lineup so far). Rondo with the Bulls starters usually played opponents about even. Carter-Williams certainly doesn’t solve the Bulls’ lack of shooting and floor spacing issues. However, Carter-Williams works harder on the defensive end, and he’s more willing to take his own shot than Rondo, whose drives only resulted in a shot if it was a wide open layup. Otherwise, he looked to pass.

If it came to a trade, with Rondo’s contract ($14 million this season, $13.4 million next season), I’m not sure the Bulls would find many willing partners. This may end up being more of a buyout situation, one where Rondo forgoes a lot of money to get out of town.

Right now everything is calm on the surface, but don’t be surprised if things bubble up as this situation continues for a few weeks.