Butler puts away school ties for new rivalry

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Butler puts away school ties for new rivalry

Bulls rookie swingman Jimmy Butler isnt conflicted. Although hes a loyal Marquette University product, when the Heat visit the United Center, he wont feel much allegiance to his fellow ex-Golden Eagle, Dwyane Wade.

That doesnt mean Butler suddenly hates the All-Star shooting guard and arguably biggest star ever produced by the Milwaukee school.

Still got Marquette love for each other, Butler insisted, following the teams Tuesday-afternoon practice at the Berto Center. I think thats one and the same for everybody who goes through there.

We ran open gym out there at Marquette, did Midnight Madness together, so weve played a little bit together, nothing major, he continued. But look at him: He works really, really hard obviously, so hes constantly working out. But good dude. Very, very good dude.

Butler hasnt played with Wade extensively, but when he did have the opportunity to participate with and observe the Chicago native, particularly during the NBA lockout, he came away impressed.

Ive watched him work out a few times and dude can play, the rookie told CSNChicago.com. He goes hard in everything and he knows where he wants to get on the floor, and he works on the shots that hes going to take, so I think thats big. He can do a lot of different things, but he knows what hes good at, so when hes really, really good at something, he wants to perfect that.

Despite the rivalry between their respective teams, Wade even gave Butler some advice.

What everybody tells me: Go hard, stay inside of my game, Butler recounted. I think thats what got me there, so thats whats going to keep me here.

Butler has seen more playing time with Luol Deng currently sidelined to rest his ailing left wrist, but while Deng practiced Tuesday and could return for Wednesdays showdown, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau insisted, Were not afraid to put him out there, when asked about Butler.

More than likely, that means hed be matched up with fellow small forward LeBron James a challenge unto itself; Butler quipped, Try to stop him from scoring, when asked about his potential strategy to defend James but its not inconceivable that if he sees playing time, he could also guard Wade, something he has limited experience with.

At first, it was kind of nerve-wracking because it was him. Both pros now, but Im going to fight, just like everyone else does. Im not intimidated, but its a grind, thats for sure. Great player, so Ive got to give it my all, he said. Who knows? Well find out soon, I guess. A lot more studying to do, working with Griff, learning from Lu, so well find out soon.

Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade lift Bulls to win over pesky Heat

Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade lift Bulls to win over pesky Heat

The emotion of playing in Miami may have been missing for Dwyane Wade but it was still the Miami Heat on the other side, the franchise he put it all on the line for before the two sides couldn’t agree on a contract last summer.

So he still had some extra juice on a snowy Saturday night that probably made him yearn for the breeze of South Beach, giving the pesky Heat some of his wrath and little flash in a 105-100 win at the United Center.

Wade scored 28 points on 11 of 24 shooting in 35 minutes to go along with three rebounds, three assists and two blocks against his former team.

Wade got the Bulls off to a better second half start while Jimmy Butler, all too happy to lurk in the wings while Wade got his shots up, had his say late in the fourth when the Heat hung around longer than expected.

Butler and Wade combined to strip Goran Dragic on a weave play that could’ve tied the game for the Heat with seven seconds left and the Bulls leading by three, as Butler sealed the game with two free throws, finishing his 31-point, seven-rebound and five-assist night.

“We got a win. We found a way to win,” Wade said. “We lost a game like this earlier this year (Lakers). We weren’t playing great and they found a way to beat us. In this league, there’s gonna be some nights where you play amazing and some where you play just well enough to get a win. Never begrudge a win.”

Saying that in the aftermath of a win came because the Bulls’ fourth-quarter offense again came to a crawl, a deal one would have to negotiate when having players like Wade and Butler on the floor who can dominate the ball for stretches to make plays.

But the Bulls shot just 40 percent on six of 15 shooting as Wade and Butler combined to score 16 of their 22 points.

“That will be the big emphasis and focus in practice on Monday, we’ll really work on our fourth-quarter execution,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg.

Butler was bullying the smaller and slightly-built Heat defenders, he got to the basket at will and kept the pressure on the interior defense of Hassan Whiteside. Most of his production came from the midrange or the paint, as the Bulls took just eight 3-pointers and committed just 11 turnovers—making for a clean if not old-fashioned game.

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“I’m confident we’ll hit double digit 3-pointers again,” said Hoiberg in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. “You shoot eight of them, you take what the defense gives you. I thought the rhythm and flow was good for three quarters.”

They seemed to follow Wade’s lead, at least in style, as he probed and spun and danced his way to the rim for as many shots in the paint as he’s taken all season despite leaving more than a few on the lip of the rim or giving the officials sideways looks after not getting what he felt were rightful foul calls.

Wade scored 11 third after the Bulls were sleepwalking on one end of the floor for the first half, leading to a 55-all game, the type of performance that Gregg Popovich would’ve given a media lashing to afterwards.

“I thought we were going through the motions a little bit, picked it up in the second half,” Hoiberg said.

Dragic owned his matchup against Rajon Rondo, getting to the paint at will, forcing switches and attacking the rim relentlessly whenever the Bulls left a sliver of an opening, scoring 21 with 11 assists before his unfortunate turnover.

One can say Dragic essentially kept the Heat in it for the first half as the Bulls’ defense hadn’t received its wake-up call, but it came in the form of Wade’s aggressiveness to start the half.

“He was pretty much going where he wanted in that first half and we struggled with it,” Hoiberg said.

A sweeping hook shot was followed by the 34-year old splitting the defense on a fast break for a dunk and 3-point play, and he finished the spurt with a baseline spin and layup to put the Bulls up double-digits.

“I thought he had a lot of pop and good legs, and one dunk he looked like a young 22-year old Dwyane Wade,” Hoiberg said. “They had good matchups, Dwyane obviously had it going tonight.”

But the Heat wouldn’t go away—or the Bulls wouldn’t put a team playing its fourth game in five nights away—as the energetic Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson came off the bench to give an ailing team a boost, combining for 26 points.

Whiteside was swatting away more than his share of shots and changing a few others, as he scored 18 with eight rebounds and three blocks but went scoreless in the fourth until his basket that brought the Bulls’ lead to one with a little over 10 seconds left.

It wasn’t pretty but it was effective enough for the Bulls to settle themselves and reverse a too-common trend of a big letdown after a big win.

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

If the Lions beat the Bears in Detroit, it'd be a recent rarity. No, not the Bears losing, but in this long series that reaches 175 games Sunday. One team or the other has swept the season series 11 of the last 12 years (the lone exception being 2011). The 17-14 Bears win Oct. 2 ended a string of six consecutive losses to their division rivals. At that point, both clubs were 1-3. The Bears have remained at that pace since, while the Lions have taken off, winning seven of eight.

It was Brian Hoyer's steady hand that guided that win, while a Vic Fangio defense missing Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan forced Matthew Stafford into easily his worst game of the season.

1. STAY COMMITTED

That first meeting was Jordan Howard's first start, and his first 100-yard game, and the rook ran it 23 times for the first of five 100-yard rushing efforts (113). And since the two Bears touchdowns were scored by a couple of players who won't suit up Sunday (Eddie Royal and Zach Miller, from a quarterback who also won't be suiting up), keep feeding the beast. He's 117 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard mark (after just a dozen carries the first three games), and another 100-yard effort would give him the most for a rookie in Bears franchise history.

2. A FASTER START FOR MATT

...meaning Barkley, not Stafford. The Bears want to avoid a faster start by Stafford and the home offense, which was held to just one first down and 14 total plays on their first four possessions back in October. As Barkley makes his first NFL road start in a dome, he and his offensive teammates need to get out of the gate quicker than they have the last two home games. Before they got things rolling on the final drive of the first half against the San Francisco 49ers, they had four possessions that totaled 14 plays, 27 net yards and two first downs. In Barkley's first start two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, they surrounded one 13-play touchdown drive in the opening half with five possessions, totaling 16 plays, 108 yards, three first downs, and an interception.

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3. HOO-RATIO

The Bears have lost the turnover battle in eight of their 12 games, and just twice have they won it. One of those instances was in Week 4. For a team that has just five interceptions all year, against a quarterback who's thrown just five picks, two came in the first meeting on the lakefront. And those picks were by (....wait for it....) Deiondre Hall (the rookie who'll play for the first time since that game), and Jacoby Glenn, who's now back on the practice squad. Now, yes, Stafford is a different beast in his den, and there's a completely different confidence level now for the NFC North leaders. But what if the defense can pull an encore? And can Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks pick up where they left off against another mobile quarterback? The Bears had just two sacks in the first meeting, registered by (....wait for it....) Mitch Unrein and Cornelius Washington.

** Finish up your snow removal by 11 a.m. Plop yourself in front of CSN, and watch ex-Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Alex Brown join Chris for Bears Pregame Live. Then as soon as the second quarter ends on CBS, log on here to CSNChicago.com as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments on Bears Halftime Live. Finally, as soon as the team's start sharing handshakes, flip back to CSN as the three ex-Bears and Chris provide 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, press conferences and locker room interviews from Detroit on Bears Postgame Live. **