NBA-Butler leads Bulls to win over Thunder

Dec 25 (The Sports Xchange) - Guard Jimmy Butler scored 23 points to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 105-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. Butler shot 9 of 20 from the field to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Center Pau Gasol added 21 points and 13 boards for the Bulls. "It's a great win obviously," said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who was criticised earlier this week by Butler for not coaching them hard enough. "The biggest thing we were looking for was to come out and play hard, Play with effort, play together. "We did all those things. Obviously, it was a tough week after a really good week. We needed something like this to show our guys how good we can be." Thunder forward Kevin Durant led all scorers with 29 points and collected nine rebounds and seven assists. Guard Russell Westbrook tallied 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Center Enes Kanter was the only other Thunder player to hit double figures with 14 points for Oklahoma City. "Man, we didn't have any energy to start the game or to start the third quarter," Durant said. "And they got us. I have no clue (why), man." Trailing by 18 going into the fourth quarter, the Thunder put their best offensive unit on the floor with Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, center Kanter and guard Anthony Morrow quickly closing the gap to 12 with 6:59 left in the game. After a layup by Chicago rookie forward Bobby Portis, Morrow drained successive three pointers to reduce the deficit to 97-89 with 4:46 remaining. Butler hit a pair of free throws to calm down the Thunder run but Kanter responded with a putback off a Westbrook missed shot. After another defensive stop, Westbrook knocked down a 14-foot jumper and Oklahoma City were down 99-93 with 3:42 remaining. Butler once again went to the foul line and buried a pair of free throws. Forward Serge Ibaka was called for an offensive foul and Gasol made them pay with a layup at the other end to give Chicago a 10-point lead that put the game away.