Bulls: Jimmy Butler will return Saturday vs. Rockets

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Bulls: Jimmy Butler will return Saturday vs. Rockets

The Bulls will get their best player back Saturday, as Jimmy Butler will return to the team’s lineup against the Houston Rockets, in a game that could see the Bulls fall below the .500 mark with a loss.

Butler has missed the last 11 games with a left knee strain, and will officially practice with the team tomorrow, where coach Fred Hoiberg will likely be cautiously optimistic about Butler’s status.

But make no mistake: He’ll be back and the Bulls need every bit of what he can offer, considering the way they’ve fallen apart without him, going 3-8, including the game in which he strained his left knee, in Denver on Feb. 18.

Apparently he won’t be under any minutes restriction as he takes the floor in a nationally-televised game, where he’ll be head-up against one of the league’s best shooting guards, 2014-15 MVP runner-up James Harden. He's been in Chicago for the last several days going through strenuous workouts and has improved to the point where he should look like himself aside from conditioning and rust.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Butler is averaging 22.4 points, 4.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds in another career year, but even with his stellar performances, the team has struggled with him in the lineup and most certainly in his absence.

Giving up 100 points or more in every game since Jan. 31 is a huge bone of contention, as Butler is the team’s best perimeter defender.

The Bulls have been without Joakim Noah for awhile after shoulder surgery ended his season, then the Bulls lost Butler, who initially bumped knees in Salt Lake City before his knee appeared to give out upon takeoff on a late second-quarter drive in Denver.

Nikola Mirotic underwent two medical procedures right before the All-Star break, as the Bulls hope he’s two weeks away from returning, and Taj Gibson injured his right hamstring in Miami two days ago, being listed as day-to-day.

With this team in a tailspin, having gone just 8-18 since Jan. 8, they’ll welcome Butler back with open arms.

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Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Doug McDermott scored a career-high 31 points, Jimmy Butler had a pair of key baskets in the closing minute and the Chicago Bulls beat the Memphis Grizzlies 108-104 on Sunday night.

The Bulls broke a 104-all tie with 25 seconds left on a 15-footer from Butler and a pair of free throws by McDermott. Butler also had a go-ahead 18-footer with 53 seconds left and finished with 16 points to help Chicago win its second straight.

Taj Gibson finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls.

Mike Conley led Memphis with 28 points and eight assists, and Marc Gasol had 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Chicago was without second-leading scorer Dwyane Wade, who did not play on the second night of a back-to-back after the Bulls beat New Orleans at home Saturday.

The game featured 16 lead changes and 11 ties, with neither team holding a double-digit lead.

Most of McDermott's damage came in the first half after the Bulls struggled shooting in the latter part of the first quarter. McDermott came off the bench to reverse the trend.

McDermott scored 20 points in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, moving Chicago's lead to eight. He had 22 points for the half and the Bulls led 52-46 at the break.

TIP-INS

Bulls: Nikola Mirotic missed his fourth straight game dealing with an illness. ... F Paul Zipser, a rookie from Germany, started his second game and second straight after coming off the bench in his first 10 appearances this season. ... McDermott converted a four-point play in the second quarter. ... McDermott's 22 first-half points were more than his total for the four previous games (21). ... Chicago scored 14 points in the first quarter, a season low for the opening frame. ... The Bulls are now 4-5 on the second night of back-to-backs.

Grizzlies: Gasol made a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, marking 17 games this season he has made multiple shots from outside the arc. ... Memphis made 11 3-pointers in the game and has converted at least 10 3s in 20 games this season, including 11 of the last 14 games.

MLK HOLIDAY

This is the 15th season Memphis has hosted a game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. The Grizzlies are 6-9 in the holiday game.

In recognition of the holiday, Memphis wore special MLK50 Pride uniforms. The black jerseys have sea foam blue numbers, letters and piping with the full T-shirt look instead of the normal sleeveless. The piping replicated the railing in front the rooms at the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968, and the blue color was similar to the doors on the rooms.

MISSING WADE

Wade's absence meant missing a reunion with Memphis coach David Fizdale. Both left the Miami Heat organization after last season - Wade signing with the Bulls and Fizdale getting his first head coaching job in Memphis. Fizdale said he is sort of a "basketball romantic" and would like to have seen Wade retire in Miami. But he predicted after the player's career "his statue will be out front and (Wade) will be remembered as the great player that he should be."

UP NEXT

Bulls: Return home to face the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Grizzlies: Memphis travels to Washington to face the Wizards on Wednesday night.