NEW YORK -- With the way players have been dropping for the Chicago Bulls, fans must have buried their heads when Jimmy Butler crashed the ground in the third quarter and was slow returning to his feet.
Brooklyn's Paul Pierce jogged behind a loose ball at half court, and Butler saw an opportunity. He swooped in and snatched the ball before Pierce could pick it up and had a free layup at the rim before the Nets' Reggie Evans came over to foul. Butler went down awkwardly before getting up and gingerly made it over to the free throw line.
"I'm good," Butler said after the game. "I think my knee just gave out, and it hurt for a second."
The play put a stamp on a 21-5 run that Chicago used to blow away the Nets in the third quarter. Butler scored 11 of his 15 points in the third, including a corner 3-pointer that gave Chicago a 52-50 lead that ignited the surge.
"I didn't think I'd actually be able to beat him to the ball," Butler said. "But then I just thought to be Usain Bolt and speed up a little bit. But that's what I bring to this game and to this team -- hustle plays."
Butler said it was his left knee that gave way during the play. He has already missed time this season with a sprained right ankle and turf toe on his right foot. The Bulls are finally starting to get healthy after being demolished by injuries. Kirk Hinrich and Butler both returned to the lineup Wednesday to help Chicago to its second consecutive win. Hinrich and D.J. Augustin showed chemistry in the backcourt, and Butler said having players back in uniform helps the team build finally build a rhythm, playing and practicing together.
"We're tough," he said. "We're really hard to beat when we're guarding and executing and making shots, and even if we don't make them, just taking the right ones. Everybody knows that we can win these games, especially when we're locking up on defense and rebounding."