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Bulls 93, Bobcats 85

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CHICAGO - Jimmy Butler returned to a reserve role Monday, but still scored a career-high 19 points as the Chicago Bulls held off the Charlotte Bobcats 93-85 at the United Center.

Butler started the previous five games in place of forward Luol Deng, who was sidelined by a right hamstring strain. Deng was back in the starting lineup Monday against the Bobcats and scored 12 points.

Chicago guard Nate Robinson added 15 points, while Joakim Noah finished with 18 rebounds, 13 points and 7 assists. This was Noah's fourth straight game of at least 15 rebounds, a career first.

Robinson led a surge at the start of the fourth quarter, hitting a pair of 3-point baskets to put the Bulls ahead 71-57 with 10:29 remaining.

Charlotte battled back behind guard Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon, both scoring 18 points apiece. After Walker and Gordon knocked down respective 3-pointers, a pair of free throws by Jeff Adrian brought the Bobcats back to within 84-78 with 2:32 remaining.

Butler gave Chicago some breathing room by knocking a rebound away from Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo and then hitting a hanging lay-in. After Ramon Sessions brought Charlotte back within 86-80 with two free throws. Chicago's Carlos Boozer hammered a dunk over Biyombo with 1:26 on the clock.

The Bulls brought plenty of defensive energy to this game, but still had trouble pulling away from the Bobcats.

Charlotte shot just 30.4 percent from the field in the first quarter, yet trailed only 21-18. Chicago opened a 40-26 advantage with 5:16 left in the second quarter when Deng's 3-point basket capped a 17-6 run.

Walker responded with seven straight points to bring the Bobcats back. They trailed by six points until Kirk Hinrich's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Bulls a 49-40 edge at halftime.

Charlotte tied the score at 55-55 with 3:36 left in the third when Walker recovered the ball after a long scramble and drained an 18-footer as the shot clock expired.

NOTES: Butler played well in Deng's absence, averaging 14.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 45.2 minutes per game. ... The last time Charlotte visited the United Center on Dec. 31, it snapped an 18-game losing streak by beating the Bulls 91-81. The Bobcats ended a 16-game home losing streak on Saturday with a 102-101 win over Minnesota. ... Monday marked the nine-month anniversary of Derrick Rose's knee injury in the Bulls' playoff opener against the Philadelphia 76ers. Rose is now practicing with the team, but he's probably a few weeks from returning to game action. ... Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap on getting his first NBA head coaching interview with the Bulls in 2008: "It was a good experience. (Bulls executive John) Paxson and crew really put me through the paces on the white board. It was a precursor maybe for the interview with Charlotte because I knew what to expect by then."
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