Butler, Bulls could see Wade return vs. Nets

NEW YORK -- Jimmy Butler is doing everything possible to will the Chicago Bulls into the playoffs and soon he might get some more help.

In his last 11 games, Butler is averaging 27.5 points, 7.9 assists and 6.1 rebounds. He is shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 54.2 percent from 3-point range.

While Butler is surging, Dwyane Wade is practicing and is listed as questionable to return from a fractured right elbow on Saturday when the Bulls visit the Brooklyn Nets.

Chicago improved to 7-4 in its last 11 games since Wade was injured. Butler recorded his fourth career triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Thursday's 102-90 win at Philadelphia.

"I'm dialed in now numbers-wise, because I know (where) I want to take this team," Butler said. "I know these guys count on me to show up every single night, and that's what I'm trying to do down the stretch."

Butler's latest big game has pushed the Bulls (39-40) into a tie with the Indiana Pacers for the final two playoff spots, and one game ahead of the Miami Heat (38-41). Chicago also is one game behind sixth-place Milwaukee and two behind Atlanta for fifth.

Chicago, Indiana and Miami are all in action Saturday along with Milwaukee.

An hour after the Bulls' tip off, Indiana visits Orlando. Two hours after the opening tip in Brooklyn, Miami plays the second game of a back-to-back set in Washington and Milwaukee visits Philadelphia.

Which means the Bulls will have to wait to find out where they are positioned in the race after facing the Nets.

Wade has been out since March 15 and the injury was considered season-ending, but now he hopes to play about 15 to 20 minutes in his return game.

"I feel comfortable. I'm not feeling any pain, so we'll see," Wade told reporters after practice Friday.

Chicago has been successful since Wade was injured and teammates are thrilled about his possible return.

"Even though we are playing good without him, if we're going to make the playoffs, without D-Wade we don't have any chance. I can tell you that right now," said Chicago forward Nikola Mirotic, who is averaging 16.9 points and shooting 48.7 percent from distance since March 15.

"We need his experience. He knows how to play those games. We don't have that much experience. And he's working so hard to get back."

On Wednesday, Wade scrimmaged during parts of Chicago's practice in Philadelphia. It marked Wade's first contact practice since the injury and Thursday, Wade did more conditioning and before practicing again Friday.

Wade was so excited about the practice that he tweeted the following Wednesday night: "First day back to practice and now I'm in the bed and can't move. Ahhhh the joys of getting back into basketball shape. Hurts so GOOD!

While Wade may return, Rajon Rondo is day-to-day after spraining his right wrist during Tuesday's loss at New York. X-rays were negative and Rondo is unlikely to play Saturday after not practicing Friday, meaning Jerian Grant will get the start after compiling 15 points and eight rebounds.

The Bulls appear to have the most favorable schedule as they host Orlando and Brooklyn after playing their final road game.

However, they don't want to meet the same fate as Atlanta, which dropped two games to the Nets on March 26 and last Sunday.

Those wins are part of Brooklyn's improved showing in the last month. Starting with a nine-point win in Sacramento that stopped a 16-game losing streak and a stretch of 27 losses in 28 games, the Nets are 10-11 in their last 21 contests.

Brooklyn will be looking to rebound from a disappointing showing in Thursday's 115-107 loss in Orlando. The Nets never led in the second half and saw their first three-game winning streak in two years end.

Jeremy Lin scored a season-high 32 points and Caris Levert added 20. Brook Lopez was held to 10, leaving him 35 points shy of Buck Williams' franchise scoring record of 10,440 from 1981-1989.

"I was so flat-out poor tonight," Lopez said. "It was rough. We've grown so much over this stretch but we took a step back tonight."

Williams would have scored more points for the Nets but he was traded to Portland in 1989 for Sam Bowie. Lopez has been subjected to numerous trade rumors but has survived all the speculation.

"It'll be an honor, no question," Lopez said. "It'll absolutely be a highlight."

Chicago is 11-3 in the last 14 regular-season meetings.

Butler scored 22 points when the Bulls held the Nets to 34.4 percent shooting in a 118-88 rout in Brooklyn on Oct. 31. On Dec. 28, he scored 40 points and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer to give Chicago a 101-99 home win.

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