NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jimmy Butler defied any inclination to give in to fatigue, and the rest of the Chicago Bulls followed suit with the kind of performance that left little doubt about their desire to make the playoffs.
Taking the court on the Gulf Coast one night after a narrow victory on the shores of Lake Michigan, Butler poured in 39 points to lead Chicago to a 117-110 win over the recently resurgent New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.
"I just want to win. I think my will to do that is going to overcome all the fatigue," Butler said. "At this time of the year, everybody's tired, everybody's nicked up. But when you have mental toughness, you overcome all that."
Butler made 14 of 26 shots, including all three of his 3-point shots, to help the Bulls win for the fifth time in six games. The All-Star guard's final points came on a step-back jumper with 20 seconds left to stem a late Pelicans run.
Chicago took sole possession of seventh in the Eastern Conference after beating a Pelicans squad that came in having won eight of 11 and six straight at home.
Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg marveled at the way Butler was "just shooting from all over the floor, the rhythm that he had going ... just rising up and shooting it like there is nobody else in the gym."
"It was a great performance to get us going, get us a nice lead at halftime, and hold out down the stretch."
Butler hit nine of his first 11 shots and it didn't seem to matter who guarded him. He made everything from a short step-back fade over the 6-foot-11 Davis to decisive mid-range jumpers coming off of screens and a pair of 3s in the first half, when he had 25 points.
"He made some tough shots, shots off one leg, turnarounds, contested," said Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, who had 30 points and 11 rebounds. "I think they played a little harder than us and it showed with the offensive rebounds, with the 50-50 balls."
Bobby Portis, who finished with 21 points, hit six of his first seven shots. His and Butler's accuracy helped Chicago shoot nearly 57 percent during the first half. The Bulls led by as many as 19 in the second quarter before going into the halftime up 63-47.
Chicago still led by 13 with less than three minutes left, but New Orleans quickly got as close as six when Davis' jumper capped a 7-0 run that began with Jrue Holiday's 3.
However, New Orleans missed a chance to get closer when Paul Zipser blocked Holiday's transition layup with 36 seconds left. Butler then drained his final basket, a 20-footer over Holiday from the right side, to help the Bulls close it out comfortably.