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Jimmy Butler keeps shooting; Chicago Bulls pull out OT win

By
Jeff Arnold, The Sports Xchange
Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) scores by Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) at Staples Center in Los Angeles, November 20, 2016. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI
Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) scores by Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) at Staples Center in Los Angeles, November 20, 2016. Photo by Jon SooHoo/UPI | License Photo

CHICAGO -- When Jimmy Butler struggled to find his shooting touch on Friday night, his teammates, namely rookie Denzel Valentine, told him to keep shooting.

Butler missed 10 of his first 13 shots, but when the Chicago Bulls needed their star most, the shots that had missed their mark most of the night suddenly started to fall.

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And in the end, that's all that mattered.

Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, Butler had 22 and five Bulls scorers reached double figures in a 128-121 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns.

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Butler was a big reason why.

"The coaches kept putting the ball in my hands," Butler said. "I kept taking the same shots and making the same plays and they went in."

Butler gave the Bulls a 108-106 lead with 9.1 seconds remaining in regulation after his 3-point field goal with 48.3 seconds left knotted the score at 106.

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Phoenix forced overtime when Devin Booker hit two of three free throws with 1.9 seconds left after he was fouled by Wade on a 3-point attempt.

Booker led the Suns (18-40) with 27 points and had a chance to give them a lead with less than two seconds remaining in regulation. But after hitting the first two free throws, Booker -- who finished 5 of 8 from the line - missed the third attempt, which forced overtime and opened the door for the Bulls.

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"I missed the free throw," Booker said. "I'll move on."

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Booker's miss gave Butler and Wade an opportunity to lift the Bulls (29-29) to their third straight victory after they erased an 11-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.

Wade's fadeaway jumper gave the Bulls a 114-110 lead with 3:39 remaining in overtime. A Butler steal and breakaway dunk extended the lead to six before a Booker 3-point play drew the Suns within three.

But Wade hit two free throws with 1:50 remaining as Chicago pushed its lead back to seven and put the game out of reach.

Nikola Mirotic scored 20 points off the bench and Robin Lopez added 19 for the Bulls, who also got 15 points from Valentine on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.

Valentine helped spark the comeback after the Bulls fell behind by as many as 13 points in the third quarter. When the Bulls traded Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City on Thursday, it opened the way for more playing time for Valentine, who hit his first five 3-point attempts.

"That gave me a lot of confidence," Valentine said. "I think I played a complete game, but I need to stay focused and keep working hard."

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As key as Valentine was, though, the combination and Butler and Wade made the difference after Phoenix took an 11-point lead on Booker's 3-pointer with 4:32 remaining in regulation.

"That's what great players do -- they step up when you need it the most," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.

In overtime, the Suns couldn't produce enough offense and didn't play enough defense to stop Butler and Wade. Eric Bledsoe, Marquese Chriss and TJ Warren each scored 17 points for the Suns. Alan Williams also had 16 points for Phoenix.

"We've got to get stops to carry us in games," said Suns coach Earl Watson, whose team committed 19 turnovers in the loss, including four in the final three minutes.

"We needed a big stop and just couldn't get it."

Now, back at .500 while holding onto the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference heading into a road test against Cleveland on Saturday night, the Bulls hope to build off another win that included a late surge.

"We found a way to win -- that's what this team is all about," Wade said. "We obviously have a tough back-to-back against the best team in the East, but tonight was about taking care of this game."

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NOTES: The Suns waived F Mike Scott and C/F Jared Sullinger a day after they were obtained from Toronto for P.J. Tucker. ... The Suns signed G Ronnie Price for the remainder of the season. ... F Dragan Bender is making progress after undergoing ankle surgery earlier this month but has not returned to basketball activities. ... Bulls F Paul Zipser missed his fourth straight game with ankle tendinitis and will not travel to Cleveland for the game against the Cavaliers on Saturday. ... G Dwayne Wade returned to the starting lineup after missing three games with a wrist injury. ... Bulls F Bobby Portis made his second start of the season and took the spot of Taj Gibson, who was traded to Oklahoma City. ... Newly acquired G Cameron Payne passed his physical with the Bulls, but he is recovering from the flu and did not play. G Anthony Morrow and C/F Joffrey Lauvergne also passed physicals.

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