BULLet Points: Jimmy Butler goes Super Saiyan

Chicago, losers of three straight, should have come into Philadelphia with laser focus and turned the game into a blowout before halftime. Of course, these are the Bulls, notorious for playing up or down to their competition. While a cleanly won rout would have been better for my cardiovascular health, at least I was treated to an inspiring comeback and a memorable performance from Jimmy Butler.

  • Jimmy Butler was incredible once again Thursday night. On a night when no other Bull scored more than 17 points, Jimmy Butler put the whole team on his back by scoring 53 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out six assists. Butler’s huge scoring outburst was done in extremely efficient manner. The All Star shooting guard was 15/30 from the field, 2/4 from three and 21/25 (!!) at the free throw line. Butler simply refused to let the Bulls three game losing streak continue against the lowly 76ers.
  • Butler’s performance was the first 50 point game by a Bull since Jamal Crawford in 2004! I vaguely remember watching that game! I think it included a play where Jamal passed it to himself off the backboard for a dunk.

  • Despite an exciting win, this game has to be viewed as a disappointment for the Bulls. Philadelphia has played better since re-acquiring Ish Smith in a trade with New Orleans, but they are still giving heavy amounts of minutes to guys with no business being on an NBA court. Jimmy Butler, who is playing through calf and ankle injuries, should have been able to enjoy a soft night on the schedule. Instead, the league leader in court time was forced to log 49 minutes of grueling basketball to overcome a 24 point first half deficit.

  • Butler’s 25 free throw attempts speak volumes to his unguardability. There are few players in the NBA capable of slowing down Jimmy Butler, and even fewer capable of really stopping him. Like Toronto before them, Philadelphia does not have any of those players.
  • A huge turning point happened at the 2:24 mark of the fourth quarter when Robert Covington fouled out of the game. At the time, the Bulls led by just one point, and a big reason they didn’t lead by more was the hot shooting of Robert Covington. The former second round pick scored 25 points and was 6/10 from three, constantly killing any momentum the Bulls built during their mini runs. The only thing that stopped Covington were the five fouls Jimmy Butler drew off of him driving to the basket.

  • Doug McDermott was the only other Bull who looked alive on offense in this game. Doug led the team in plus/minus at +19 in 33 minutes. Doug shot 7/12 from the field and 1/2 from three and even managed to grab a steal at mid court, a rare occurrence.
  • In addition to the steal, Doug did something else pretty awesome that we rarely get to see.

  • Joakim Noah has yet to find any offensive touch since coming back from his shoulder injury, but he was able to make positive contributions in this game. Starting in place of the injured Pau Gasol, Noah grabbed 16 rebounds and wracked up eight assists to go along with six points scored. His +13 was the best of the big men in this game.
  • The Bulls badly missed the big Spaniard in this one. Pau comes with his set of issues, but there were times in the first half where the offense needed to slow it down for a possession. Gasol loves quieting runs with a quick post up basket. When things looked to be getting out of hand in the second quarter, I longed for an angry Pau back down and demand for the ball.
  • The win cures all, but this was not a game to remember for the Snell-Brooks-Portis second line that was playing so well during the win streak. The three reserves combined for just four field goal attempts (making just one) and five turnovers. Nikola Mirotic was also abysmal against the NBA’s worst team. He shot 2/13 from the field and was the only starter with a negative plus/minus. The Bulls excelled when Hoiberg mercifully benched him for the rest of the night.
  • With Derrick Rose sidelined nursing knee tendinitis and Brooks struggling, minutes became available for E’twaun Moore. Moore had a fantastic game, scoring 14 points on 6/8 shooting, including 2/2 from three. Jimmy Butler was running on fumes in the five minute overtime, but he was able to take a few possessions off thanks to Moore’s personal 7-0 run against Philly.
  • Every time it seemed like the Bulls finished off the 76ers, Ish Smith knocked down a clutch, difficult shot. Ish scored 24 points and was the only man on his team capable of generating any offense down the stretch. Ish has bounced around the NBA but is finally putting together some impressive stat lines in a big role with Philadelphia. In what looks to be an extremely thin point guard free agent class, Ish Smith could be playing himself into a contract worth $10 million a year.
  • Next up, the Bulls come home to the United Center to face off against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks on Friday in the latter half of a back to back.

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