Bulls Get Stomped By Thunder, Will Be Short-Handed Tuesday

By Cody Westerlund–

CHICAGO (CBS) — The young Bulls will get their chance to shine Tuesday after Monday really took a toll on the team.

A 109-94 loss to the Thunder at the United Center was followed by coach Fred Hoiberg announcing that star Jimmy Butler won’t accompany the Bulls to Washington D.C. for Tuesday’s contest against the Wizards as he continues to deal with an illness that clearly slowed him Monday. Butler scored just one point on 0-of-6 shooting, the first time he went without a field goal since Dec. 19, 2013, according to Basketball Reference.

Butler missed the morning shootaround and gave it a go for 29 mainly ineffective minutes. Teammate Michael Carter-Williams called him “real sick,” and Hoiberg added Butler’s availability for Thursday’s game at New York is still unclear as well.

“He wasn’t talking much,” Jerian Grant said of Butler. “He wasn’t his jolly self like he usually is. You could tell.”

Also set to be out of the lineup Tuesday will be Butler backcourt mate Dwyane Wade (22 points Monday), who has a scheduled day of rest on the second of a back-to-back. With their two leading scorers out, the Bulls will likely turn to Doug McDermott to start and ask Grant and Denzel Valentine to play bigger minutes.

Valentine will play after missing the past three games with a left ankle sprain. Point guard Rajon Rondo — benched for the fifth straight game Monday, on his bobblehead night, no less — could “potentially” see action, Hoiberg said.

“We talked amongst ourselves, it’s a great opportunity for us,” Grant said of the younger Bulls taking on a bigger role. “Our team needs a win.”

The Bulls’ reliance on Butler is no secret. The 10th-leading scorer in the league entering Monday, he’s the central focus of opposing defenses and has improved his playmaking for others as the season has gone on. With Butler out of sorts Monday, the Bulls never led after the opening minute and shot 40.5 percent, with just 18 assists. Oklahoma City battered Chicago on the interior as well, scoring 60 points in the paint and shooting 56.6 percent, while MVP candidate Russell Westbrook just missed his 18th triple-double of the season with 21 points, nine rebounds and 14 assists.

As so often has been the case this season, the Bulls went as Butler went. He was pulled in the third quarter of the blowout and sent home early. He’ll rest at least a day.

Meanwhile, the Bulls need to figure out a way to win to replace his 25 points per game and leadership. This latest loss dropped them to 19-19, which marks a three-way tie for seventh place in the East. Washington joins Chicago in that spot.

“Jimmy being out, it’s going to be tough for us, especially early on, you could tell he didn’t have a whole lot energy,” Grant said. “I kind of feel it rubbed off on a lot of us.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.

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