(The Sports Xchange) - Chicago guard Jimmy Butler was lamenting his shooting touch of late before facing Phoenix but in the fourth quarter, with his team in need of a finishing kick, Butler scored 14 of his season-high 32 points as the Bulls beat the Suns 103-97.
It was a fourth consecutive win for Chicago, who head to Oakland for a meeting with the 12-0 Golden State Warriors on Friday.
“It felt good to make some shots and see the ball go through the net,” said Butler, who was 14-for-41 from the field in his previous three games before going 11-for-23 on Wednesday.
“My team mates just kept giving me the ball and telling me to shoot it whether I wanted to or not. They said to be aggressive and take the shots I think I can make. That’s what I did.”
Butler had 20 points in the second half while playing all 24 minutes. He hit the 30-point mark for the eighth time in his career.
“He did it all for us in that fourth quarter,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said.
“I tried to take him out, and he wouldn’t let me. It was almost like his energy level went up as the game went on. That’s what big-time performers do; they step up when you need it most.”
Chicago (8-3) improved to 6-1 in their past seven trips to Phoenix dating back to 2007.
Kirk Hinrich, starting in place of Derrick Rose (sprained left ankle), added 14 points and six assists in 24 minutes.
“When I feel fresh, I feel good about my shot, and I‘m feeling fresh right now,” said the 34-year-old Hinrich, who ranks third behind Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in games played for the Bulls. “I‘m just trying to keep my conditioning and my health good and keep contributing.”
Suns guard Brandon Knight scored 23 points, Eric Bledsoe had 21 points and seven assists, and P.J. Tucker added 20 points, two shy of his career high.
Phoenix (6-5) missed a chance to complete a four-game homestand sweep after wins against the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers.
“There were a few breakdowns, but at the end of the day, they made tough shots,” Tucker said. “We didn’t get a lot of consecutive stops tonight. We relied too much on our offense and not as much on the defense. We didn’t finish.”
The Bulls put up 31 points in the fourth quarter, but Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said the 31 points Chicago scored in the first hurt his team as much.
“They are a good team. They don’t need any extra confidence,” Hornacek said. “But when they come in and make 11 of their first 13 (shots) that they take ... now it’s uphill. We were battling all night to get back and finally get the lead.”
Phoenix rallied from 17 points down in the second quarter and led 88-87 after two Bledsoe free throws with 4:47 left.
The Bulls regained the lead on a dunk by Pau Gasol and a three-pointer from Hinrich. Butler put the game out of reach with a driving layup, a 21-foot jumper and a three-point dagger with 1:08 left to make it 99-92 Chicago.
“Butler made every shot, Hinrich made a couple of big ones, and when the game was on the line, they made them,” Hornacek said.
Gasol finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Bulls guard Aaron Brooks had 12 points before leaving the game with a left hamstring injury in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know how it will be, but it’s pretty bad. It’s nothing I’ve ever been through before,” Brooks said. “I didn’t feel a tear or a pop. I’ll wake up and see how it feels tomorrow.”
Compiled by Peter Rutherford