CHICAGO -- By virtue of their 117-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets, the Bulls moved to four games above .500 for the first time this season.
They posted a season-high with 69 first-half points, a season-high for points in a regulation game, their largest margin of victory and tied their season-high with their fifth straight victory.
But fittingly for a season that has featured more mood swings than a toddler who skips nap time, the triumph came at a minor cost. After continuing his offensive resurgence with eight points in 11 minutes, Jimmy Butler exited late in the first quarter and didn't return with what X-rays later showed to be a bruised rib.
The good news is rookie Tony Snell scored a career-high 20 points in Butler's absence, starting the second half for him. The bad news is Butler, who was hit by Timofey Mozgov as he completed a three-point play, may not be available for Sunday's tilt in Miami against the Heat.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said a determination on whether Butler travels will be made Saturday.
"Tony stepped in and did a great job," Thibodeau said. "He was ready for extended minutes."
Snell said his experience playing extended minutes earlier in the season when Butler was hurt helped him.
"This time I was more prepared," Snell said. "I just tried to take advantage of all the hard work I've put in and everything I've learned."
The Bulls held their 13th opponent to fewer than 90 points since Jan. 1, a league-high. They are 12-1 in those games. But the story of this game was the offense. The Bulls passed their league-worst scoring average of 92.3 points by the end of the third quarter, placed seven players in double figures and shot 50 percent overall.
That included 58.8 percent 3-point shooting as D.J. Augustin knocked down five en route to a team-high 22 points. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson posted double-doubles.
"He did that and then some," Gibson said, when asked if Augustin has exceeded expectations. "Anything Thibs needs him to do, he's going to do. He just does his job. He hits big shots. He's our clutch player."
The Bulls couldn't have played much better in grabbing a 69-46 halftime lead. They led by 20 in the first quarter and by as many as 28 overall. They posted their seventh straight double-digit lead in the first quarter. And they scored 32 first-quarter points, marking the sixth straight time they have scored at least 29 in the opening period.
"Readiness to play is big in this league," Thibodeau said.
And now the Bulls will need to be ready for the Eastern Conference-leading Heat in their Sunday matinee.
"I always look forward to going down there," Noah said. "Of course we want LeBron (James) to play. We hope his (broken) nose is OK. They're the back-to-back champions. You want to play against the best just to measure yourself. We feel we can compete against them."
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