Jimmy Butler’s return from the flu was certainly an impressive one, but Dwyane Wade stole the show late as the Chicago Bulls took down the New Orleans Pelicans 107-99 in an atypical 4:00 PM Saturday game. The game featured the homecoming of not only Chicago-born superstar Anthony Davis, but also the return of former beloved Chicago Bull E’Twaun Moore, whom GarPax allowed to leave in free agency in lieu of signing him over Rajon Rondo.
Butler kicked off the first quarter in terrific fashion. He had 13 points on 5-7 shooting from the field to go along with four rebounds, three steals, and an assist. Watching the way he moved around the court and shot with confidence, you’d hardly believe that this was the same player that had the flu hold him to one point earlier in the week and knocked him out for two additional games. Unfortunately, none of the other Bulls managed to step it up scoring-wise early on, and the Pelicans subsequently found themseleves hanging around for most of the quarter despite Butler doing everything he could to build a lead. Ultimately, thanks to four pelicans contributing at least four points in the early going (E’Wtaun Moore in particular), the Bulls found themselves down 22-21 at the conclusion of the period.
The second quarter began with E’Twaun Moore continuing to do damage (doubling his point total to ten in the initial minutes), but thankfully the Bulls’ bench finally came to play. Cristiano Felicio set the tone with eight points and five rebounds in the first six and a half minutes of play, showing a great off-the-bench raport with Rajon Rondo:
Felicio’s teammates seemed to feed off that energy, as Rondo himself chipped in six points and four assists all before Butler checked back into the game midway through the period.
When Butler did check back in for Chicago, he kept right on cooking, adding six points, two assists, and another rebound and steal each to his totals. He finished the first half with a line of 19/6/3/4, and did so while shooting an efficient 6/11 from the field and 3/3 from distance. Butler’s alpha-dogging combined with the solid play of the Bulls’ reinforcements allowed the team to go into the lockerroom with a 55-45 halftime lead.
The Bulls opened the third quarter on a 9-3 run that included a fun transition sequence where Dwyane Wade threw the ball behind his head to Jimmy Butler for a layup alley-oop. Meanwhile, the Bulls continued to punish the Pelicans on the glass, with both Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez hitting double-digit rebounds with about two and a half minutes remaining in the third. Making matters worse, the Pelicans defense continued to let the Bulls’ ball-handlers roam freely to set up open shots and scores at the basket, which essentially cancelled out any runs they were able to make on the other end. However, towards the end of the period, Anthony Davis and E’Twaun Moore (4-4 from three at this point) managed to perserve enough on offense to cut the lead down to single digits. After Rondo clanked a three badly at the buzzer, the Bulls entered the final twelve minutes of the game with a 77-71 lead.
The Pelicans immediately ripped off nine points to open the fourth quarter and cut the lead to one, but Dwyane Wade promptly responded with four straight baskets of his own on the other end to keep the Bulls ahead by five. Wade then followed up a lone Felicio freethrow with a bomb from three to put himself at 5-5 from the field to open the fourth quarter after previously shooting 2-13 the rest of the game. Wade went on to shoot 7-11 in the fourth quarter, a stretch that saw him score 17 of his 22 points for the contest. Father Prime’s clutch play combined with Jimmy Butler co-piloting and Taj Gibson’s dominance on the boards proved to be enough down the stretch, as the Bulls were able to hold on long enough to close out the game with a final score of 107-99
Butler finished with a line of 28 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks on 9-16 shooting from the field to lead the Bulls to victory. Taj Gibson posted a double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds while leading the way for a Bulls team that out-rebounded New Orleans by a margin of 21 (including fifteen more on the offensive glass). For the Pelicans, Anthony Davis finished with 36 points and 14 rebounds but received little help from his teammates outside of Tyreke Evans and E’Twaun Moore. Moore had 16 points on 6-9 shooting (4-5 from beyond-the-arc) in his personally-anticipated return to Chicago.
It’s always a welcome sight to see the Bulls beat a team they have no business losing to at home, given their icky trend last season (and parts of this season) of getting complacent against inferior teams. The Bulls won’t be able to hang their hats on this one for long, however, as they’ll have a tough challenge on the road tomorrow against the Memphis Grizzlies. Wade is scheduled to rest and Nikola Mirotic is likely still out with the flu.