The Bulls were without Derrick Rose (puking his brains out) and Taj Gibson (another bum anke) once again on Friday night, and considering it was the second night of a back-to-back against the 21-4 Grizzlies, that should have spelled doom.
Instead, it was the Grizzlies who looked like they were the tired ones for much of the night (they have played a ton of overtimes in the last week), and the Bulls came away with their second consecutive 103-97 victory. I'd say this was shocking, but we shouldn't be shocked by these types of wins anymore.
If you want to know why the Bulls won this game, look no further than this: Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic and Aaron Brooks combined for 75 points on 24-of-44 shooting overall and 9-of-15 from three, while Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley combined for 42 points on 16-of-44 shooting. Much of the damage by the Grizzlies trio was done by Conley and Gasol at the very end of the game, and Randolph didn't even play in the fourth quarter because he was ineffective.
That basically sums it all up right there. Nobody else on the Bulls played particularly well, and although the Grizzlies got some nice performances off the bench, it wasn't enough to overcome the mostly wretched play of their three best players.
The first quarter and change of this game was slow and painful, and it was basically only saved by the awesomeness that is Butler. Gasol and Randolph uncharacteristically missed a ton of layups, while Kirk Hinrich and Tony Snell characteristically bricked (and in Snell's case, airballed) open shots.
While I was pondering making a stiffer drink to cope with how bad this game was, Nikola Mirotic saved the day. Mirotic and his glorious beard caught fire from three-point land in the second quarter, and the rookie helped the Bulls open up an eight-point lead at halftime. The rookie had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and 4-of-4 from three in the first half, with the last bomb coming from a legit 30 feet out. Randolph wanted no part of that action on the perimeter, and it was a big reason why he didn't play when the game got tight late.
The start to the second half was basically the same as the first. Butler was awesome, Hinrich threw up bricks and the Grizzlies were drunk. At one point, Gasol tried to shoot (or was it a pass?) from behind the back and he missed his intended target, whatever or whomever it was, by a good five feet. Then a few moments later, Tayshaun Prince airballed a layup.
Memphis made a run to trim a 13-point Bulls lead down to four, but Brooks and his Thibs Dust stemmed the tide by knocking down two consecutive threes. The Bulls led by seven points heading into the fourth quarter, and while the Grizzlies made several runs, Chicago scored timely buckets and iced the game at the free throw line. Butler and Mirotic came up with the big buckets down the stretch, while Joakim Noah and E'Twaun Moore (!!!) did the job at the line.
Butler finished with 31 points on the night in 43 minutes, so if you're counting at home, that's 66 points in 88 minutes on this back-to-back. I'm pretty sure this dude is a robot. Meanwhile, Mirotic made all six of his three-pointers and got all the crunch time minutes. I think we might have a Rookie of the Year candidate on our hands, and I pray to the God that is Jimmy Butler that Tom Thibodeau will play Mirotic when everybody is healthy.