Bulls fans have been waiting patiently for Jimmer time, and they and weren't disappointed when it finally arrived.
D.J. Augustin was not in the building Monday night because his wife gave birth to a baby boy. So for the first time since signing with the Bulls on March 2, sharpshooting guard Jimmer Fredette finally got a chance for some extended playing time.
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Taking over Augustin's spot in the rotation, Fredette scored 17 points in 31 minutes and helped lead the Bulls to a 108-95 victory over Orlando in the final regular-season game at the United Center.
The third quarter told an interesting story. The Bulls let a 13-point halftime lead dwindle to 67-64 when Orlando rookie Victor Oladipo drained a 3-pointer with 3:43 left in the third.
That's when Fredette checked in for Kirk Hinrich. With Fredette on the floor, the Bulls finished the third quarter on a 14-6 run and pulled away in the fourth.
"To me, you judge your point guard on how the team functions," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought he did a great job with that. I thought his ball pressure was very good, so that's encouraging."
Before Monday, Fredette had played just 25 minutes total since joining the Bulls after he was released by Sacramento. So he had every reason to be rusty when finally given his big opportunity.
"It's something I've done a lot in my career so far," Fredette said. "So you just have to continue to be prepared, be professional. You never know when an opportunity is going to come, so you have to be able to take advantage of it when you get minutes, and hopefully I was able to do that tonight."
Fredette was practically a folk hero in college at BYU, and he quickly has become a fan favorite in Chicago.
Early in the fourth quarter, Tony Snell missed a 3-pointer, but Taj Gibson grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked it to an open Fredette. The crowd started buzzing as soon as he let the shot go and it went through the net for a 3-pointer that made it 89-75. Fredette hit 7 of 14 shots overall but just 1 of 5 from 3-point land.
"Coming in when his number's called and performing the way he performed, that just shows how hard he works every day in practice," Joakim Noah said. "He's a heck of a player."
Mike Dunleavy led the Bulls (48-33) with 22 points, although he ended a run of 36 consecutive made free throws in the fourth quarter. Noah had another near triple-double, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Snell had a good game, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes of action.
Nothing much changed as far as the Bulls' playoff position. Toronto beat Milwaukee on Monday, so the Bulls and Raptors remain tied for third place in the Eastern Conference with one game left to play. If the teams stay tied, Toronto gets the No. 3 seed by virtue of being a division champion.
The Bulls can land the third spot if they win at Charlotte on Wednesday, while Toronto loses at New York. It's still possible for the Bulls to play Brooklyn, Washington or Charlotte in the first round.
The top two seeds became official Monday. Miami rested LeBron James and lost at Washington, which means Indiana will be the top seed in the East and the Heat No. 2.