By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Prior to Tuesday’s home contest against the Raptors, Bulls wing Jimmy Butler mentioned to teammate Doug McDermott that he planned on getting a triple-double. In what was his return after missing four of the past five games with a heel contusion, Butler fell well shy of that goal in only grabbing only two rebounds, but his larger point stood strong.
He had intentions of affecting the game in as many facets as possible, and he did that.
In what was a less-heralded glimpse into his rise to stardom, Butler was instrumental in controlling the Bulls’ 105-94 win at the United Center despite shooting just 2-of-10 from the field. He scored 19 points, matched a career-high with 12 assists and shadowed an eventually-ejected-in-frustration DeMar DeRozan in the latter’s 5-of-19 shooting night
“There’s multiple ways to help win games,” Butler said. “(I’m) not the best scorer, I’m probably not the best passer either, but when you do a combination of all things, that’s basketball for you. I think these trust me with the ball in my hands.
“This ball club has a lot of confidence in me to change the game in more ways than just going 10-for-10 from the field.”
Butler’s leading performance was well-timed for the Bulls (27-29), who snapped a three-game losing streak in which they’d been beaten by at least 18 each time out. Butler only played in the middle of that three-game rut, not looking like himself in last Friday’s lackluster loss at Phoenix, where his injured heel slowed him and didn’t allow for his usual lift.
With a few more days to rest and his heel now “good,” Butler didn’t have his optimal rhythm but did have full confidence in his ability to attack. He went 15-of-19 at the free-throw line, the fourth time this season he’s made 15 free throws in a game. Butler joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls to ever do that four times in a single season.
“When you’re shooting 2-of-10 from the field, I think you better find a way to get to the free-throw line,” Butler said. “But you know, other than that, everybody has a different way of changing the game, whether you’re guarding, rebounding, passing, getting loose balls, taking charges. Getting to the free-throw line is another way to win.”
Perhaps amazingly for a Bulls team that has been marked by inconsistencies in the past several years, Tuesday marked the 11th straight time they’ve beaten the Raptors. It’s a streak that dates back to Dec. 31, 2013, Butler’s first season as a full-time starter.
Butler has played the star turn in several of those 11 wins, authoring a record-setting 40-point half, a game-sealing block and a furious fourth-quarter rally at various times in the past two seasons. On Tuesday, he again provided the Bulls what they needed, just days ahead of his third straight trip to the All-Star Game.
“We need that from him, to be unselfish and get us all involved, and he really did,” said McDermott, who scored 20 points and is averaging 24.0 points in his last four games against the Raptors.
“He just did a great job of finding us and telling us to shoot it when he was passing it to 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.