Jimmy Butler's career-high 35 points and Pau Gasol's 20 led the Bulls in an unexpectedly taut 103-97 victory over the depleted Knicks, who were without Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. Joakim Noah returned from his four-game absence and missed 7 of 8 shots but grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. None was bigger than his offensive grab of Butler's miss that led to Aaron Brooks icing matters with a free throw with 11 seconds left.
Brooks, huge with 18 points, rose to shoot — and instead fired a pass to Gasol that hit the net but Gasol still caught and laid in with 52.5 seconds left for a 100-97 lead. Butler then closely defended Tim Hardaway Jr. on a 3-point miss and Noah came up with his big rebound.
Tribune player of game
Butler. After playing all but 3 minutes, 16 seconds, that back-to-back Friday at Memphis should be fun.
3,676. The late, great Norm Van Lier had stood third on the Bulls' all-time assists list with this number until Kirk Hinrich passed him Thursday. Hinrich, who now has 3,678, trails only Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
"Just thank God for Jimmy Butler. You can't say enough about him. What he does — big shots, plays defense, gets to the line, makes plays, plays unselfishly, plays hard, doesn't take plays off. He's having a phenomenal year." — coach Tom Thibodeau, whose Bulls were without Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson
The quote II
"I don't want to be a star. I just want to be a decent role player on a really good team. I just took what the defense gave me. My teammates found me in the position to where I can get to the move that I always practice and found me for an open jump shot. That's on them. We have a lot of unselfish guys and they saw I was in a rhythm and continued to give me the ball.'' — Butler
The quote III
"It was a tough angle. It was tough to catch because he went through the net. You never know how that ball is going to come off. I just got my hands ready, tried to catch it and make a play and score. I didn't think that he was going to see me. But he saw me open and he threw it instead of shooting it, which I appreciated." — Gasol on Brooks' last-minute pass to him
The quote IV
"I missed him out there because he's a guy who does all the little things, all the dirty work. He gets rebounds, gets the ball. Defensively, he gets into people. His hands are very active. I think he brings a lot of value to our team. It was great to have him out there." — Gasol on Noah's return
at Grizzlies, 7 p.m. Friday.