All seemed lost in Chicago a couple weeks ago.
Players were complaining about head coach Fred Hoiberg, Dwyane Wade was ruled out for the remainder of the regular season, and their fading playoff hopes were starting to look like a mirage.
Jimmy Butler, however, is a winner, and winners play their best when faced with adversity. Butler scored 33 points with eight assists Saturday to lead the Bulls to a 106-104 home victory over the Hawks.
The Bulls (37-39) are 5-3 since losing Wade. They also climbed to seventh in the Eastern Conference postseason standings by way of currently leading a tie-breaker between the Pacers and Heat, both of whom have the same record as Chicago.
Many ruled the Bulls out of playoff contention when all the of the discord started surfacing. But one of the ringleaders for stirring up drama, Rajon Rondo, made amends for his actions by pouring in 25 points with 11 rebounds and six assists against the Hawks.
Chicago, which pulled off a season sweep of the Cavaliers, now looks like a playoff team. And in the wide-open East, anything could happen when the games really start to count.
Studs of the Night:
Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul gave the Lakers all kinds of trouble in a 115-104 win. Griffin scored a game-high 36 points with eight rebounds and five assists, while Paul provided 29 points on 9 of 14 shooting with 12 assists.
Dud of the Night:
It will show up in the box score that Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio finished Saturday's 123-117 loss to the Kings with a double-double, but that is misleading. Rubio, who had 11 points and 13 assists, shot just 1 of 10 from the field and 0 for 3 from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, Andrew Wiggins poured in 32 points on 13 of 20 shooting to lead Minnesota, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 11 rebounds. Rubio's inability to stretch the floor on a consistent basis is part of the reason why Minnesota (30-45) has such a disappointing record.
Magic forward Aaron Gordon continues to get redemption for poor slam-dunk contest performance:
Gordon finished the 121-111 loss to the lowly Nets with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Wizards (46-30) at Warriors (62-14) 8:00 p.m. ET — A few months ago this would not have been a very intriguing matchup. Now, however, it looks like a possible Finals preview with the Cavaliers sputtering, thus opening the door for Washington and other Eastern Conference challengers. Golden State has won 10 straight games, even with Kevin Durant out of the lineup.