Butler scores 26 as Bulls beat Grizzlies 95-91

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler believes he’s getting his rhythm back

after missing 12 games this season with injuries.

Butler scored 14 of his season-high 26 points in the third

quarter and Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 10 rebounds to help

Chicago defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 95-91 on Monday night.

Butler, who missed 11 games earlier this season with a right toe

injury and sat out one game on Dec. 21 with a right ankle problem,

shot 6 for 10 overall and 2 of 3 on 3-pointers. He also was 12 of

14 at the foul line in a team-high 41 minutes.

”I’m getting real comfortable,” Butler said. ”I sat down with

a few of the vets, and they just talked to me and told me to play

my game and have fun. When you have fun, everything else takes care

of itself.”

D.J. Augustin had 10 points off the bench for the Bulls,

including eight in the fourth period as Memphis tried to make a

late run.

”We played poorly,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. ”We

played poor in the first half and worse in the third quarter.”

Mike Conley finished with 26 points, nine assists, six rebounds

and six steals to lead the Grizzlies, who had won three of four.

James Johnson scored 13 points, all in the second half, and grabbed

10 rebounds before fouling out with 4:10 left.

Tony Allen also had 13 points but Memphis committed a

season-high 21 turnovers.

”It was awful,” Joerger said. ”We threw the ball all over the

place. We lacked focus. We lacked screening and cutting. We were

loose with the ball.”

The Bulls also had 21 turnovers but they won despite playing

again without leading scorer Luol Deng, who missed his fifth

straight game with a sore left Achilles.

Chicago’s defense began causing real problems for the Grizzlies

in the third as the Bulls opened the second half with a 20-4 run,

fueled by a handful of Memphis turnovers and the Grizzlies missing

11 of their first 13 shots.

That contributed to the Bulls extending the lead to 18 and

eventually carrying a 71-64 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Memphis, led by Conley, chipped away at Chicago’s 18-point

advantage – its largest of the night. The Grizzlies pulled to 72-71

in the fourth and 78-76 later, both after scores by Johnson.

Augustin nailed a long 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with

about 6 minutes left to answer Johnson’s second score.

”It was a tough shot at a tough moment,” Augustin said.

”Whenever somebody does that to a team, it takes away their

momentum. They had it going at the time.”

Augustin’s basket started a 10-2 run, capped by Kirk Hinrich’s

3-pointer with 3:33 left, that pushed the Bulls’ lead back to

10.

That was enough for Chicago to earn its fourth victory in the

last 12 games.

”It’s very tough against them,” Conley said. ”You can’t give

them a 15-point lead and expect to not be worn out by the time you

get the ball back and you’re down two. They’re a fantastic

defensive team. They work hard. They have a bunch of guys that love

to play D. It was tough.”

NOTES: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau missed the morning shootaround

to attend his father’s funeral in Connecticut. The elder Thibodeau

died on Christmas Day, according to published reports. ”Our

family, once I saw they were good, I felt good about (coaching),”

Thibodeau said before the game. … Bulls G Derrick Rose, who

played one season at the University of Memphis, missed the game

with his right knee injury. Rose has returned only twice to Memphis

to play against the Grizzlies in his NBA career. … Conley’s 26

points were the most he has had since scoring 28 against Minnesota

on Dec. 15 – the last game before he missed two straight with a

left thigh bruise. … Chicago was 6 for 15 from 3-point range.