Butler at Bulls' service in comeback win over Hawks

LOS ANGELES • Jimmy Butler scored 33 points to maintain Chicago's push for the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs on Saturday.

He scored the final nine points for the Bulls in their 106-104 win over the Atlanta Hawks at the United Centre as Chicago overcame a nine-point deficit to seal the win.

The victory saw Chicago improve to 37-39, lifting them into a virtual three-way tie with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for the seventh playoff spot on offer from the Eastern Conference.

"Nobody picked us to be in the playoffs, nobody picked us to win," Butler said. "I want to win - I think everybody knows that."

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg could not hide his admiration for the guard, who also had eight assists and five rebounds.

"He was phenomenal," he said. "Jimmy did everything again. He just found a way to get to the basket... obviously, he was a huge part of that win."

Butler was backed by Rajon Rondo, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Denzel Valentine weighed in with 13.

Hoiberg also praised his team's never-say-die attitude as they prepare to embark on a demanding four-game road trip which starts this morning (Singapore time).

"It's an important step when you can fight through adversity and find a way to come back from a big deficit like that," he said after the Bulls faced a nine-point deficit in the last five minutes.

"It's a couple of times in a row when we've fought back. We haven't put our heads down and we continue to compete."

In the Western Conference, the fifth-ranked Clippers were too strong for their city rivals the Lakers, who are languishing at the foot of the table at 21-55.

Blake Griffin scored 36 points in a 115-104 victory that gave coach Doc Rivers his 800th career win as the Clippers improved to 47-31.

Rivers' side are within one game of the Utah Jazz in the race for the fourth seed. But Griffin - who topped 10,000 career points in the first quarter - was unhappy with an inconsistent display which saw the Lakers reduce a 21-point lead to eight during the closing stages.

Griffin later admitted that the Clippers' failure to kill off opponents was a concern.

"It's still something that needs to be worked out," he said.

"I thought at times we came out to start the game the right way and then we took our foot off the gas."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2017, with the headline 'Butler at Bulls' service in comeback win over Hawks'. Print Edition | Subscribe