CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler loves being the man who both takes and makes the most important shots late in games. He proved that again Saturday, scoring the final nine points for the Bulls, including two free throws with 2.1 seconds left, to lead them to a 106-104 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
The 27-year-old has thrived late in games in recent seasons and isn't shy about discussing his love for the situation.
"I do," Butler said. "Why? Because I'm not supposed to be here anyway. I'm supposed to miss shots and I'm supposed to fail. Everybody always picks me to do that, but it's OK. I like all the so-called pressure. I just want to go out there and show that I belong."
Butler has done that repeatedly over the past three seasons, three consecutive All-Star campaigns, but particularly since Dwyane Wade fractured his elbow in a March 15 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and was ruled out for the season. Since that game, Butler is averaging 27.3 points, 8.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds and is shooting 54.4 percent from the field. The Bulls, who sit in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase, are 5-3 during that span.
"I always look at it as nobody picked us to be in the playoffs," Butler said. "Nobody picked us to win anyways. I'm just out there playing basketball. I want to win, I think everybody knows that. I'm just doing what everybody asks of me, so to speak."
What that entailed Saturday night was playing 43 minutes and not coming out during the second half. Aside from his 33 points, Butler chipped in eight assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.
"Jimmy did everything again," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He found a way to get to the basket, [took] 10 free throws, made them all, obviously was a huge part of that win."
With the 10-for-10 effort from the line, Butler tied Michael Jordan for the most games in franchise history (nine) in which he has attempted 10 or more free throws in a game and made all of them. Jordan accomplished the feat during the 1987-88 season. Butler shies away from any Jordan comparisons, but he has always said he feels he has endeared himself to Jordan and other former greats because of his work ethic.
When the game is on the line, Butler wants to be the one to carry his team over the finish line.
"That's what I want to do," Butler said of playing the entire second half. "No disrespect to any of my teammates or anybody like that, but Fred was like, 'Hey Jimmy, are you tired?' And I said, 'No, I want to play. I want to be the reason that we win.' He was looking out for me, telling me we had another one tomorrow
(Sunday at the New Orleans Pelicans), but I told him I'm not worried about tomorrow, I'm worried about the right now. Whatever they need for me to do, I'm going out there and I'm doing it."