Jimmy Butler is ready for the challenge of the postseason.
Butler scored 25 points, and the Chicago Bulls beat the depleted Brooklyn Nets 112-73 in the regular-season finale to earn an Eastern Conference playoff spot on Wednesday.
Paul Zipser added a career-high 21 points off the bench as Chicago took advantage of a short-handed Brooklyn lineup to secure its first playoff appearance under coach Fred Hoiberg.
The Bulls, the No. 8 seed, will open the playoffs Sunday night against No. 1 seed Boston Celtics.
“Looks can be very deceiving. We’re all right. We’re not worried about who we’re playing, we have to focus in on ourselves and play the best Bulls basketball that we can,” Butler said.
“Obviously, Boston is a very good team. No. 1 seed on the road, we’ll take it, we’re in there. It’s all about us playing the best basketball at the right time.”
Without a dominant regular-season team in the East, Dwyane Wade is holding out hope.
“Everybody had a challenging season. That’s what happens when you play in a talented league. Every team, especially in the Eastern Conference, has had its ups and downs, has had a challenging year.
“At the end of the day, our goal was to get to the playoffs and we were able to accomplish that. I’m happy with that, with this team right now,” Wade said.
On Tuesday, the Nets, who have the worst record in the league, said Trevor Booker, Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez would be out due to rest, while Quincy Acy (ankle), Joe Harris (shoulder) and Sean Kilpatrick (hamstring) because of injuries.
On Saturday, the Nets defeated the Bulls in Brooklyn 107-106 behind Lopez’s 13 points and Lin’s 12 points.
The decision was controversial, especially with Miami, who needed the Bulls to lose in order to have a chance at the playoffs.
“I’m going to be honest as a competitor, I understand it, I understand the point of view that some of you have, some of the press has and maybe other teams, I do understand it,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said before the game.
“But again, we have to look at it from the Brooklyn Nets franchise and what is best for us and that’s how we’re looking into it in a vacuum. That’s my responsibility as coach.”
Rajon Rondo was back in the Chicago starting lineup after missing the past three games with a sprained right wrist. He had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes and Wade finished with seven points in 22 minutes in his third game back from an elbow injury.