Life is tumultuous and little is certain. It’s the constantly shifting reality of the world that make the simple constants of everyday existence such welcome experiences for all humanity. The sun will rise in the east. The ocean waves will forever crash against the beach. The Bulls will beat the Raptors.
Jimmy Butler impacts winning, even when his shot won’t fall
Sure is great having Jimmy Butler in the lineup. Butler, who missed two of the last three games after suffering a heal injury in the win against the Thunder, carried the Bulls to victory in 37 minutes of play. The high minute total is not great for a guy nursing a muscle injury, but Fred Hoiberg needed to lean on Butler to end their three game skid and pick up slack for the injured Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic and Paul Zipser.
Butler had a rough night shooting the ball, making just 2/10 of his field goals and missing both of his three point attempts. With his shot unable to connect, Butler relied on his strength and craft to bait the anxious Raptors who defended him into committing shooting fouls all night. Butler shot 15/19 from the line, able to make a scoring impact in a game he couldn’t score.
Part of Butler’s poor shooting performance could be attributed to rust, or him still dealing with pain in his foot. But Toronto’s defense certainly deserves credit for forcing Butler to defer to his teammates for much of the game. All five Raptors constantly had their attention fixed to Butler whenever he had the ball.
Jimmy was able to take advantage of all that attention and feed his open teammates throughout the game. Finding guys on either cuts or spot-ups, Butler tallied 12 assists, tying a career high.
Before Butler was being voted in as an All-Star game starter, he made a name for himself as a lockdown wing defender. Butler spent the entire game matched up against his 2016 Olympic teammate DeMar DeRozan and showed off the great defensive skill set that first allowed him to break into Tom Thibodeau’s rotation. Butler’s pesky defense forced DeRozan to shoot a paltry 5/19 from the field.
Butler also had four steals in this game, including one that led to one of his only two field goals in the game.
Jimmy Butler with the steal and then finishes it up with the dunk!! pic.twitter.com/zeZS6xxcUz— Chicago Sports News (@ChiSportUpdates) February 15, 2017
The Bulls have a +3 net rating with Butler on the court. They are -9.7 with him off. Lets hope his heel is healed.
Bulls take advantage of Back-to-Backtors
The Raptors came into Chicago after having lost a heartbreaking game the night before against the Detroit Pistons. Entering the fourth quarter with a 16 point lead, Toronto squandered a win and forced their stars to play heavy minutes in a game they probably thought was over before the final period. DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Demarre Carroll each played over 36 minutes in the loss.
The Bulls, coming off a day of rest, did a great job of taking advantage of the weary Raptors. Chicago was relentless pushing the ball down court and several times took advantage of Toronto’s poor transition defense. The Bulls, who average 13.6 fastbreak points per game, outscored Toronto 20-7 in transition. Kudos to Hoiberg and the Bulls for clearly making transition a point of emphasis against the tired Raptors, even with a depleted rotation of their own.
Cristiano Felicio did the bulk of his damage in transition, and is typically great at running the floor and filling the lane, but against Toronto he was not alone. Taj Gibson had an exciting alley-oop slam when he beat all the Raptors down court after a turnover on one play, and later slipped through the lane for another easy bucket before Toronto was able to set their defense.
Bench came to play
The Bulls’ leading scorer in this game was Doug McDermott, who finished with 20 points on 8/13 from the field. McDermott, who’s struggled lately, logged 32 minutes in the absence of Zipser and Mirotic, and found a bit of a groove on offense. Doug made 2/4 of his three point shots while also scoring three times inside the restricted area.
Hey the Bulls got an elevator play to work! pic.twitter.com/KkPTuKOde9— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) February 15, 2017
Rajon Rondo had a great night shooting the ball. Rondo scored 12 points, making 5/8 of his field goals and a perfect 2/2 from beyond the arc.
And with Felicio’s 10 points, the Bulls had three reserves who scored in double figures, something they haven’t done since losing to Houston on February 3.
Bobby Portis certainly did not play great, but he did make a corner three. Portis is quietly shooting 36.7% from three this season, albeit on a very low number of attempts.
The Bulls bench is not something that should be counted on, but on the rare night that a handful of players deliver strong performances, Butler and the Bulls should find a way to win.