CHICAGO– Jimmy Butler scored a career-high 19 points and Nate Robinson added 15 as the Bulls defeated the Charlotte Bobcats, 93-85, on Monday night.
Luol Deng returned to the Bulls’ lineup after missing five games with a hamstring injury, and scored 12 points in 31 minutes. The Bulls won three of five without Deng as his absence was eased by the strong play of Butler, who returned to a reserve role.
Joakim Noah finished with 13 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists to help the Central Division-leading Bulls win for the seventh time in their past nine games.
Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon led the Bobcats with 18 points apeice. Charlotte has lost nine of its past 11 games.
The Bulls pulled away late in the third quarter behind Robinson. After Walker’s jumper erased a 14-point deficit and tied the score at 55, the Bulls scored 13 straight points. Robinson sparked the run with a pair of 3-pointers then had a steal to set up a dunk by Butler to put the Bulls up 68-55.
Robinson wasn’t done. He made a pull-up 3, then had a steal and layup to give the Bulls a 75-61 lead. Robinson stared down Ramon Sessions after the layup.
Charlotte got it within six late in the fourth quarter, but Carlos Boozer put the game away with a dunk over Bismack Biyombo with 1:25 left.
Jeff Adrien had 14 points and 10 rebounds in his first NBA start. Gordon scored 15 points in the second half.
Leading 23-20 early in the second quarter, the Bulls extended their lead with a 17-6 run. Butler had six points in the span and Deng made a 3 to make it 40-26.
Kirk Hinrich’s 3-pointer as time expired in the second quarter gave the Bulls a 49-40 halftime lead. Butler led the Bulls with 10 points in the opening two quarters, and Boozer had nine. Walker led the Bobcats with 11.
Charlotte was able to erase the Bulls’ 14-point lead as Gordon’s jumper got the Bobcats to 54-53 and Walker’s jumper tied the score at 55 with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
The Bulls have won five of their last seven games against teams with winning records, including two victories at Eastern Conference leaders Miami and New York. However, they have struggled to get victories against teams with sub .500 records. Their latest poor showing came in a loss to the Wizards on Saturday night.
Charlotte pulled out a 10-point win against the Bulls to snap their 18-game losing streak on New Year’s Eve.
Adrien, called up from the D-League in December, replaced Hakim Warrick in Charlotte’s starting lineup.
NOTES: Before the game, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t comment if Derrick Rose is ready to return to full practices. “He’s coming along, he still has a ways to go,” said Thibodeau, who has been discreet on the timetable of Rose’s return. ... Boozer finished with 13 points.