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Bulls’ Butler making most of time

(MCT) — MILWAUKEE — Jimmy Butler’s Saturday started with hazing.

For the second straight season, the Bulls had a morning shootaround at his former Marquette stomping grounds. Those include a large picture of the second-year swingman outside the gym.

“Oh, man, they were letting me have it,” Butler said of his teammates.

Coach Tom Thibodeau has been giving it to Butler in a different way lately — more playing time. Butler played 30 minutes, 15 seconds Wednesday night in Houston. He had scored eight points in his two previous games before Saturday and defended well.

Butler entered at the 1:27 mark of the first quarter in Saturday’s victory over the Bucks. He played 18:42, scoring six points and grabbing seven rebounds.

“His energy and toughness are what we need,” Thibodeau said. “He’s making good progress. There are still a lot of areas he has to improve. But every day, he gets better.”

Butler said the increase in playing time hasn’t changed his mind-set.

“I just try to bring energy every night,” Butler said. “My job is to defend, rebound and hit the open jumper when it’s there for me. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

Play it again: In one of those rare scheduling quirks, the Bucks will travel south on Interstate Highway 94 Monday to face the Bulls at the United Center.

“It’s as close to a playoff thing as a regular-season game can get because you’re playing back-to-back,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “Whatever happens (Saturday), we’ll have video to look at, turn right around and slug it out again. It’s fresh in the guys’ minds.”

Even Thibodeau had a thought.

“In some ways it’s good because it’s what you face down the road in the playoffs,” he said.

Central casting: Most preseason prognostications picked the Pacers or Bulls to win the Central. The Bucks lead early even after blowing late leads in their last two games before Saturday in road losses to the Bobcats and Heat.

“Obviously, (Danny) Granger being out has had an effect on Indiana, but I believe they’re better even without Granger than their record indicates,” Skiles said. “And I think the Bulls (without Derrick Rose) are too. We’ll see. It’s still early.”

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