Butler the unhappy hero as Bulls hold off Raptors 94-92
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter February 19, 2014 8:48PM
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Updated: February 20, 2014 2:31PM
TORONTO — Being the hero in the final seconds to preserve a win wasn’t enough for Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, not when the Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan had dropped 32 points on Butler in a basketball lesson that lasted most of the game.
But when it mattered most, DeRozan’s total never reached 34.
With the Bulls gripping a one-point lead, Butler blocked DeRozan’s game-winning attempt and the Bulls held on for a 94-92 win Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
‘‘I guess I knew the scouting report was to make him go left,’’ Butler said. ‘‘Whenever he stops, he’s going to give a pump fake or two, and whenever he left his feet, I left mine to get the block.’’
Butler executed it to perfection after very little seemed to be going the Bulls’ way in the final minutes.
After leading by as much as 15 points, the Bulls (28-25) saw their lead slipping in the fourth quarter until D.J. Augustin hit a three-pointer with 2:43 left to keep them up by six. The Raptors (29-25) continued chipping away, however, and when Kyle Lowry hit a three-pointer with 1:30 left, they were down just two.
The lead was cut to one when Amir Johnson hit a layup and drew a foul, and after a bad possession by the Bulls, the Raptors had a chance to take the lead with 10.9 seconds left. It was obvious who was getting the ball on the inbound and just as obvious whose responsibility it would be to stop him.
Butler believes he can guard anyone he’s asked to one-on-one.
‘‘I think so,’’ he said afterward, ‘‘but I don’t think I played any [defense]. He had what,  points? I take pride in my defense, and  points is a lot. Especially whenever I play 45-plus minutes. I’ve got to get a lot better. There’s no excuse for that.’’
But there had to be some sort of vindication with the block in the final seconds, right?
“No, not really,’’ Butler said. “He still had  points. I feel like the game wouldn’t have been so close if he didn’t score .’’
Well, even if Butler wasn’t satisfied, his teammates were.
‘‘Jimmy has been playing at a real high level,’’ center Joakim Noah said. ‘‘His defense has been crazy. That was great defense at the end. I’m happy because I know there’s still more.’’
Noah was also happy because he knew the game had meaning. The showdown with the Raptors had the feelings of a playoff game, with technicals thrown around and Tyler Hansbrough still antagonizing the Bulls. With the win, the Bulls pulled to within a half-game of the Raptors for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
‘‘It was a playoff atmosphere because it was definitely a physical game, high intensity,’’ Noah said. ‘‘We know what we’re playing for — everyone knows what we’re playing for — and this was a big win for us.’’