When news broke just before tip off that Jimmy Butler was not going to play, I assumed the Bulls would struggle to score against the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls are extremely shorthanded as is, and the loss of the team’s leading scorer did not appear to bode well for the slumping squad. Sometimes, I love being wrong.
- The Bulls got off to a scorching start Wednesday, scoring 34 first quarter points. The off ball movement was crisp and the passing was quick and intelligent. The unselfish play freed up E’Twaun Moore for several open looks that allowed the new starter to build his confidence early. Moore scored 13 points in the first quarter on 5/5 shooting, including three from three point range.
- Moore led the team in scoring with 24 points, a career-high for the former Boilermaker. His hot shooting early on spread the defense and opened up driving lanes that he took advantage of in the second half. Moore’s aggression with the ball was crucial for the Bulls in Butler’s absence. A very fatigued Derrick Rose would not have been able to carry the offense completely on his own down the stretch.
- The first half was an absolute joy to watch. The Bulls spaced the floor beautifully and ran the type of free flowing offense that Hoiberg was known for in Ames. The Bulls assisted on 65% of their field goals in this game, a massive jump from their average 56%. Rose finished the game with nine assists, but dished out six in the Fredtastic first quarter.
- The Bulls found open shooters in the corners all night and made the Kings pay for their horrible defensive effort. On the night, Chicago was 11/21 from three. Moore finished the game 4/5 from deep, Doug McDermott was 2/6 and Pau Gasol was a perfect 2/2 on wide open looks from the left corner. Except for a couple Aaron Brooks chucks, all of the Bulls three point attempts felt like they came naturally in the flow of the offense.
- Derrick Rose played decently in his increased role sans Butler. He scored 21 points on 6/15 shooting. Rose continues to stay aggressive going to the rim, and tonight he was rewarded with ten free throw attempts. Derrick led the team with nine assists, but he also turned the ball over seven times. The best thing I can say about Rose in this game was that over the first three quarters he did an excellent job of initiating the offense early in the shot clock. That quick pace mindset is what freed up his teammates for wide open shots all game.
- Doug had a sweet dunk
- Bobby Portis continues to struggle on defense, as almost all rookie big men do. Defense can be taught. What can’t be taught is relentless ferocity. Thankfully, Bobby is all set in that category:
- Is it a coincidence that the Bulls offense looked prettier than it has all year on the same night Jimmy Butler missed his first game? I’m not going to make some crazy assertion that the Bulls would be better off without their All-Star guard. The offense slowed down a lot in the second half as early hot shooters cooled off and fatigue set in. Butler has become one of the best isolation scorers in the NBA, averaging 1.01 points per isolation possessions, the sixth best rate of players with at least 100 isolation plays. But all those possessions come at the expense of potentially more efficient offense via the beautiful ball movement showcased in Sacramento. The Bulls are without question better with Butler, and could become unstoppable if Jimmy buys into the system.
- Coming up: the Bulls head to Denver for a Friday night matchup in the high altitude.