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Basketball / Sports

Bulls blow early 16-point lead, fall to Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. -- In many ways, Jimmy Butler's season has mirrored that of the Chicago Bulls.

The third-year swingman entered with high expectations after seizing the starting shooting guard position with his breakthrough second season. Injuries followed, creating a prolonged offensive slump

And now, more positive than negative is happening, although what happens on any given night is still anybody's guess -- with the offense of both Butler and of the Bulls.

After five straight double-figure scoring games in which he showed offensive maturity by attacking the basket and drawing fouls in an attempt to jump-start his jumper, he needed a strong finish to score 14 points Thursday night at Oracle Arena.

And the Bulls dropped to 2-3 on this six-game trip by blowing an early 16-point lead in a 102-87 loss to the Warriors.

Stephen Curry's game-high 34 points led the Warriors, who played without late scratches David Lee and Andrew Bogut.

Taj Gibson started for Carlos Boozer, also a late scratch with a strained left calf, and led the Bulls with a career high-tying 26 points and 13 rebounds.

Joakim Noah flirted with a fourth career triple-double with seven points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 11 assists.

The Bulls came out aggressively, with Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin combining to make all seven first-quarter shots for 15 points. But Curry scored 16 points in the second period as the Bulls committed eight turnovers, including six in seven possessions.

Hinrich finished with 15 points in 25 minutes.

Speaking at Thursday's morning shootaround, Butler said his recent offensive renaissance before Thursday's setback came simply.

"I just feel like I'm getting the confidence again," Butler said. "I'm making a few shots, getting to the free-throw line and getting some easy baskets. I feel like that's the key to my game."

Butler's shooting percentage is down substantially from last season's 46.7 percent to 36.8 percent. His 3-point percentage has dropped from .381 to .276. Whether this regression is from the disjointed nature of his injury-plagued season or starting for the first time Butler doesn't know.

"I always try to not step on anybody's toes," he said. "Or try to change too much on the offensive end. When you just go out and play and take what the game gives you, it makes it a lot easier."

Throughout Butler's shooting slump, coach Tom Thibodeau consistently said two things -- that he didn't judge Butler's game solely by offense and that Butler would snap out of it. Thibodeau cited Butler's work ethic as why.

However, Thibodeau also specifically pointed to an offensive suggestion.

"His offense is starting to come around, but I don't want him to strictly rely on his jump shot," Thibodeau said. "When he does that he gets away from a lot of other things that he does well -- running the floor, moving without the ball, getting to the free-throw line."

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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