Butler scores 24 in season debut, hits 2 FTs to lift Bulls over Wolves, 106 105

By Jon Krawczynski


MINNEAPOLIS _ Jimmy Butler made a surprise return to the starting lineup and hit two free throws with 0.2 seconds left to help the Chicago Bulls weather another absence from star guard Derrick Rose in a 106-105 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

Butler scored 24 points on 6-for-12 shooting in his season debut and Pau Gasol added 29 points and six rebounds for the Bulls, who missed Rose with a sprained left ankle.

Kevin Martin scored 33 points and hit a 3-pointer for a 105-104 lead with 2.9 seconds to play. But Butler got rookie Andrew Wiggins in the air on the other end and forced contact to get to the line. He calmly knocked down the free throws, and the Bulls escaped with the win.

Ricky Rubio tied a career high with 17 assists in his first game since signing a four-year, $55 million contract extension. But the Wolves lost starting power forward Thaddeus Young to a strained neck on a scary collision with Butler just before halftime.

The Bulls led by 16 points in the first half, but Anthony Bennett and Martin led a Wolves comeback in the final two quarters. Martin’s big 3 came after two offensive rebounds, but Wiggins was too aggressive on Butler on the final possession.

Rose warmed up before the game, but the Bulls made a late decision to rest their former MVP who has missed most of the last two seasons with knee problems. Taj Gibson also missed the game with an ankle injury, but the Bulls were buoyed by Butler’s return.

The shooting guard missed the first two games of the season with a sprained left thumb that was expected to keep him out much longer, and he made five of his first six shots to get the Bulls out to a 16-point lead in the first half.

Showing no signs of disenchantment from the inability to get a new long-term extension done by the Friday deadline, Butler was a force on both ends as usual.

Butler played the entire first quarter and scored nine points while making life miserable for Wiggins on the other end. Wiggins was 0 for 3 at halftime and finished with eight points and six rebounds in 31 minutes.

The Bulls led by 14 early in the third before the Wolves made a run. Wiggins blocked two shots and hit a step-back jumper, and Rubio’s midrange jumper tied the game at 76 with under three minutes to play in the period.



Bulls: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he wasn’t concerned with Rose’s injury and also said he had no doubt in his mind his star point guard would get back to the impact player he was before the knee issues. … Aaron Brooks scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half. Nikola Mirotic added 12 points and eight boards.

Timberwolves: In conjunction with Rubio’s contract, the Wolves unveiled a ticket promotion dubbed the No. 9 pack in which fans who purchase tickets to eight games get the ninth one _ vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 26 _ free. … Martin hit all 11 of his free throws.


Bulls: Host Orlando on Tuesday night.

Timberwolves: Visit Brooklyn on Wednesday night to start an 18-day road trip.

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