CHICAGO (AP) — In a game missing Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, it was Jimmy Butler who played like a star.
Butler scored a career-high 35 points and the Chicago Bulls beat the New York Knicks 103-97 on the night of Dec. 18.
“All I can say is thank God for Jimmy Butler,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You can’t say enough about him.”
Playing without Rose, who sat out with an illness, the Bulls got another strong game from Butler. He was 11 of 21 from the floor with four 3-pointers, five rebounds, seven assists and four steals, further staking a claim to an All-Star spot this season.
“He’s playing extremely well, with a lot of confidence, with a lot of aggressiveness,” said Bulls forward Pau Gasol, who had 20 points. “He’s asserting himself every single game at both ends of the floor.”
Still, the Bulls had trouble shaking a short-handed New York team that’s lost three straight and 13 of 14. The Knicks were led by Tim Hardaway Jr., who had 23 points and five 3-pointers.
Samuel Dalembert made a basket with 2 seconds left in the third quarter to give the Knicks a 74-73 lead heading into the fourth. New York outscored the Bulls 29-21 in the third, holding Chicago to six field goals.
The Bulls responded in the fourth, going on a 12-0 run to take an 87-77 lead, a spurt that included a dunk by Butler with 8:43 to go and was capped by Nikola Mirotic’s 3-pointer.
New York hung around, pulling within one on Amare Stoudemire’s basket with 4:13 remaining and again with 1:06 left on Stoudemire’s jumper. But Gasol made a layup and, after Hardaway missed a wild 3 with 37.9 seconds left, Aaron Brooks hit a free throw and Gasol rebounded the missed second attempt to effectively clinch the win.
“Chicago is a good team. They understand situations,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “They just made more plays down the stretch than we did.”
Anthony was out with a sore left knee and is day to day. He has averaged 23.4 points in 24 games for the Knicks but has been battling the knee problem, an issue that kept him out of New York’s first game in Chicago since Anthony spurned the Bulls last summer during free agency.
New York also was without Andrea Bargnani (right hamstring), Cleanthony Early (right knee), Iman Shumpert (left shoulder) and J.R. Smith (left foot). Stoudemire was expected to miss the game for a recovery day, but played nearly 31 minutes and scored 16 points.
That still wasn’t enough to help New York, which fell to 5-23. “I hope none of the guys on the team want to quit,” Knicks guard Jose Calderon said. “We need to be a team until the end.”
Rose had played in 11 consecutive games as he works his way back from the torn meniscus that ended his 2013-14 season. He is averaging 16.8 points and 5.1 assists for Chicago, which lost Dec. 15 in Atlanta to end a three-game winning streak.
Chicago forward Taj Gibson (right ankle) also was sidelined but is expected to make the trip to Memphis for a Dec. 19 game. The Bulls aren’t sure whether Rose will play, but Butler stepped up in his absence.
“I don’t want to be a star,” Butler said. “I just want to be a decent role player on a really good team.”