OT: Noah: 'It's been a hell of a turnaround'

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
8:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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TORONTO -- The Chicago Bulls will come into Friday night's game against the Denver Nuggets three games over .500 and just a half game behind the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. If Bulls fans are shocked by those numbers, don't worry, some of the players are still coming to grips with those facts as well. The difference is that the Bulls still feel they have much more to accomplish this season.

"It's been a hell of a turnaround," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Definitely. But we're not satisfied with being three games over .500. Just like Thibs says all the time, things change quick in this league. Right now it's four in a row, Denver's next. ... We're happy because we know this was a big win tonight against a really good team. Now we just got to keep going, stay focused."

Butler makes play of the game: Jimmy Butler was a little frustrated with himself after the Bulls' victory Wednesday night over the Toronto Raptors. That may come as a surprise given that Butler made the biggest play of the night when he blocked a DeMar DeRozan shot that would have likely given the Raptors a win. Butler couldn't believe DeRozan, the man he had been guarding most of the night, had gone off for 32 points. Despite the tinge of disappointment, the proud Marquette alum enjoys the challenge of guarding the opposing team's best wing player every night. It's a role that his good friend, Luol Deng, used to fill for the Bulls on a nightly basis before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in January.

"I think so," Butler said. "But I don't think I played any D tonight. [DeRozan] had what [32] points? I take pride in my defense, 30 points is a lot, especially whenever I play 45-plus minutes, so I got to get a lot better. There's no excuse for that."

It's that kind of attitude that has made Butler so popular in the Bulls' locker room.

"Jimmy battled," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "And that's what I like about Jimmy's mindset is he is going to keep coming. You see his rhythm starting to come on offense now, which is huge for us."

Bulls center Joakim Noah believes Butler is just scratching the surface of how good he can be.

"Jimmy's been playing at a real high level," Noah said. "And I think the sky's the limit for him because he's still figuring out where he's getting his scores from. And he's just getting better every game, getting more comfortable. His D has been crazy, that was great defense at the end. I'm happy because there's still more."

What's next: The Bulls are expected to practice Thursday afternoon. That practice should end right around the time the trade deadline will pass. Thibodeau said before Wednesday's game that he would be surprised if the Bulls made a deal.

The last word: Butler, on the performance of backup point guard D.J. Augustin:

"D.J.'s huge and he's playing with a lot of confidence right now. Hitting big shots, tough shots, but that's D.J. for you, man. He's gaining confidence and he knows his role, he knows what he has to do on offense and on defense."

Butler knows it meant a lot to Augustin to be able to perform well against the Raptors, the team that waived him in December.

"That's big. And you can always count [on] D.J. to talk trash to somebody in the front row when he gets going like that."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.6 3.4 1.5 40.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.5
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 2.0