A few hours after kids in Chicago searched for the Easter Bunny, the Bulls were desperate to find an Energizer bunny.
That’s when Jimmy Butler appeared, intercepting a pass from the Pistons’ Kim English early in the fourth quarter. Butler slammed one down to tie the game at 78, after the Bulls had trailed for nearly 40 minutes.
“The credit goes to Nate [Robinson],” Butler said. “His ball pressure is what caused it – and made it easier to read that passing lane. If I could, I’d give him an assist on that stat sheet.”
Numerous players had to contribute to allow the Bulls to escape with a 95-94 victory. It was their 18th consecutive win over the Pistons, who fell to 1-13 in March.
“This was big, because we know that team is desperate to get wins,” Robinson said. “They were going to play hard and free.”
The win was also big because it came on the heels of Saturday night’s 100-98 loss to the Mavericks – a game in which the Bulls blew a big lead and missed key free throws down the stretch as Dallas closed with a 15-1 run over the final 4 minutes, 8 seconds. Dirk Nowitzki (35 points) hit three 3-pointers in the final 55 seconds – including the game-winner with 2.9 seconds left – to offset 25-point efforts from Robinson, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer.
Sunday’s game was tight until the end. The Bulls took the lead for good when Deng (game-high 28 points) followed a Robinson miss for a 94-91 advantage.
“We dodged a bullet; we’re fortunate,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “In the end, we were just trying to find a way. I thought the key thing was the hustle plays ... and right now, we need everybody.”
Playing without Joakim Noah (right foot) and Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain), plus Richard Hamilton and Derrick Rose, the Bulls got little from bigs Nazr Mohammed (0 points, 4 rebounds) and Boozer (11 and 7 in just 22-plus minutes).
They also got help from an unlikely source, Pistons center Andre Drummond. He air-balled back-to-back free throws in the fourth quarter to send a surge through the United Center crowd.
Robinson came through late by firing a long pass to Deng for a layup and then stealing one from an unsuspecting Villanueva.
“For me it’s pretty cool being short like that,” the 5-foot-9 guard said, “because he didn’t see me coming.”
Robinson also hit a 3-pointer with just under four minutes to play after Deng’s offensive rebound.
“Lu got the ball and handed it to me,” Robinson said. “Lu knew I was gonna make it; I had that look in my eye.”