The Bulls improved to an impressive 9-5 on the year with a 118-110 victory over the Lakers (7-7) on Sunday night to split their Los Angeles double header this weekend. It was a back and forth affair that featured a lot of up and down play and a lot of long balls. There were a total of 53 shots from behind the arc for the two teams combined with 21 of them finding the bottom of the net. The Bulls led by a singular point at the half before pulling away in the second half and surviving a Laker comeback attempt to pick up the W. Let’s get more into what happened in this game and what it means going forward.
- I don’t know how I got through that intro without mentioning Jimmy Butler, but somehow I did. This whole post could be about the man growing into an MVP candidate before our eyes. Remember when rumors were swirling around draft time for Butler to be traded to the Timberwolves. Seems like a distant dream now as Butler has developed into maybe the second best player in the East.
- One play in particular stood out to me. It was towards the end of the 4th with the Lakers starting to mount a comeback. Butler got a rebound on an ill-advised shot by D’angelo Russell. He came down and was subsequently fouled by Julius Randle. Only no foul was called and instead there was a jump ball called. On the tip, Jimmy out-hopped the three inch his superior, Randle, by climbing the ladder to swat the ball back to his team. That kind of determination is why the Bulls will win plenty of games this year.
- Finally time to get to Butler’s numbers. Jimmy went for 40 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. How’s that for a stat line? Over his last eight games, the Marquette product is averaging 28 points, seven boards, and over five dimes per game. Given his numbers and his top-10 PER rating thus far (27.1) it is time to be taking Jimmy seriously as a superstar in this league. Enjoy this kid while you can, he’s a joy to watch and never takes a play off.
- I suppose there were other players in this game so let’s hit some of the highlights from the rest of the squad. Isaiah Canaan continued to stretch the floor while coming off the bench. The diminutive guard scored 17 points on 6/10 shooting, including 3/6 from deep. Rajon Rondo scored only four points, but added nine rebounds and 12 assists to his tally on the night. Rondo was also has a +/- rating of +15, quieting some of the noise from Bulls fans saying the team is better with him on the bench.
- Another Bull who had a quality game was Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic dropped 15 points and also showed some hustle grabbing 15 boards. But what impressed me most, and gave me hope going forward, was his ability to make the extra pass in transition. Sure, he took some bad shots down the stretch, but overall, Mirotic showed a great propensity to look for the open shooter. Let’s home this continues as the Bulls desperately need to keep his shooting ability on the floor.
- Another trend that continued is the Bulls ability to absolutely dominate teams on the glass. The Bulls are tied for second in the league in rebounding and just out-rebounded a solid Laker team by 19 on the road! The bulls were also able to snatch 18 offensive rebounds creating countless second and third chances that just demoralizes your opponent in a close game such as this one.
- For the Lakers, it is obvious that this team is a more prepared and focused one under Luke Walton than Byron Scott. They are only .500 on the year but their young talent has begun to show some of that potential we keep hearing about. Lou Williams continues to impress off the bench as he scored 25 points on 8/14 shooting, including a red-hot 5/6 from three-point land.
Up Next: The Bulls continue their circus trip deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains as they take on the Nuggets on Tuesday night.