Once again, a Bulls player getting injured matters more than the actual outcome of the game itself. Jimmy Butler left in the third quarter with a left elbow strain, according to Bulls' PR. Afterwards, Thibodeau said it is likely a hyperextension and Butler will have an MRI tomorrow. Butler's already been dealing with a troublesome right shoulder and has had his left thumb wrapped for a considerable amount of time this season, so just add another ding to the Bulls' iron man armor. All we can do is hope that it's nothing too serious, which is an all too familiar feeling.
In the end, though, the undermanned Bulls were dropped by the Clippers 96-86, despite all of Nikola Mirotic's efforts. Mirotic finished the game with a career-high 29 points and remarkably, until 1:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, had scored all of the team's points in that period. Sure, Mirotic had some sloppy turnovers and made some questionable decisions, but he was the sole reason the Bulls had any shot at winning. If there's one positive from this otherwise miserable game, it's Mirotic.
As for how the game played out, it eventually became entertaining, but it started like most Sunday afternoon basketball games start: cringeworthy. The Bulls couldn't make anything and they had a hard time generating open looks in the first quarter -- scoring only 18 points in the frame. However, once the second quarter got underway, Mirotic immediately went on an individual 6-0 run, which provided a much-needed spark. Mirotic finished the half with 13 points to lead Chicago.
Amazingly, Chicago went to break down only two points (43-41). Part of that was because Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes shot a combined 2-23 in the early going. But both teams failed to shoot better than 40 percent for the half. Sunday afternoon basketball at its finest (ugliest?), folks.
For the Clippers, DeAndre Jordan grabbed 15-plus rebounds for the eighth straight game -- and he managed to do it before halftime -- finishing with 26 (!) for the game. Chris Paul picked the Bulls apart in midrange all game, leading the Clippers with 28 points and 12 assists. Paul gave the Bulls fits as a clealy overwhelmed Aaron Brooks simply could not guard him. In Brooks' defense, though, Paul is about as good as it gets in pick-and-roll, so it's not like anyone should have realistically expected Brooks to shut Paul down.
Once Butler left the game in the third quarter, Chicago turned to Joakim Noah playing the Point Noah role and facilitate. It's never pretty, but Noah flirted with a triple-double like he normally does when he is the man at the helm of the Bulls' offense. Noah ended up with 13 points (and a career-high 14 free throw attempts), 11 rebounds and six helpers.
It sure didn't help that Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks and Pau Gasol shot a combined 7-37 on the night. The no-shows from Brooks and Hinrich should come as no suprise, they've stunk up the joint -- to be fair, Hinrich has stunk all season -- ever since Derrick Rose went down. But I mean, they've played downright dreadful. Any person trying to tell you the Bulls are better off without Derrick Rose should be mercilessly mocked and ridiculed. That simply couldn't be further from the truth.
It was just such a rough game to watch. The Bulls went into the game without Taj Gibson who is batting an ankle that he's rolled four times this season. Gasol -- who returned from an illness that kept him out of Friday's game -- played like he could have used another day of rest. There was no offense whatsoever -- again, aside from Mirotic -- as the Bulls shot a season-low 31 percent from the field. Just rough, man.
One cool thing that did happen is that ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy fued with Bulls' managment is FAR from over. Van Gundy yet again took the opportunity to throw some shade at John Paxson, which I imagine is fun for those of you that enjoy WWE-like storylines and drama. No matter what side you fall on, I think we can all agree that at the very least, Van Gundy's comments are entertaining.
But in the end, it was just another 'life without Derrick' kind of game. They suck. None of us ever want to get used to them. But the good news is that everyone expects him to be back. In the meantime, the grind-it-out Bulls are what we are going to have to live with, I guess.