After beating the Phoenix Suns in overtime on Friday, the Chicago Bulls came out with a strong performance against a LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers team on primetime TV. It was a 117-99 win for the Bulls, who grabbed their third straight win over the Cavs and moved over .500 to a record of 30-29. Aside from the Cavs injury woes, as they were missing LBJ, J.R. Smith, and Kevin Love, a big part of Chicago’s victory was their three-point shooting. It was an atypical night offensively for the Bulls with Jimmy Butler struggling early in the game, the three-point shooting picked up the slack. They had their best three-point shooting game of the season, which is very ironic considering they just traded one of their best shooters in Doug McDermott this week.
Chicago shot 15 of 30 from deep and took advantage of a Cavaliers team that is one of the worst when it comes to giving up three-point looks. Cleveland is tied for 8th in the league when it comes to giving up the most three’s per game (28.4) and the Bulls certainly exploited that. Nikola Mirotic, Jerian Grant and newbie Cameron Payne each hit two from deep, making it a total team effort. But it was Butler(!) and Denzel Valentine who did most of the long range shooting, knocking down 4 and 3 triples in the game in the game respectively. Each of them hit big three’s in the second half, especially Jimmy, who splashed two of them back to back.
With the game going back and forth in the third quarter, the Bulls held a 70-67 lead and had the ball with the shot clock winding down. Butler was left open and got a shot off with 1.3 seconds left and hit it. Then in semi-transition, Butler dribbled up to the three-point line. Given Butler’s tendency to drive to the hoop, his defender sagged off him and there was an ample amount of space between the two players. That gave Butler enough time to square up and hit another three. Just like that, the Bulls had opened up a 76-67 lead and took back the game. The two Butler three’s helped open up a lead that Chicago would not relinquish.
Butler took advantage of a similar situation, with the defender sagging off, earlier in the game.
This time it was off a pick and roll with Joffrey Lauvergne, who was guarded by Channing Frye. Butler took the screen and again had clear space between him and Frye, who was sagging off into the paint and was anticipating a drive. Butler is a good player when driving to the basket so it makes sense for Frye to back off but you can’t give him acres of space. He took advantage of that mismatch and knocked down the triple.
When Wade and Butler are driving to the hoop effectively, they draw defenders into the paint for help defense and are able to kick out to shooters. Like in the video below:
Camron Payne With Another 3 pic.twitter.com/oyDSZjvtse— Gustavo Vega (@iamvega1982) February 26, 2017
Wade was matched up on Kyle Korver and was able to easily go baseline on him. This caused both Tristian Thompson and Kyrie Irving to collapse to the paint. With Thompson offering help on the drive and Irving rotating over to guard Felicio, Cameron Payne was left wide open. Richard Jefferson couldn’t help considering he was guarding Butler so Payne had enough time to set up and hit the jumper.
Tonight, you saw what happens when the other guys are able to knock down some open shots. Will we be able to see this more consistently? With this team, who knows. I’m leaning towards an answer of no but Fred Hoiberg should certainly keep churning lineups of Jimmy and/or Wade surrounded by shooters. It helps open up the space for them to create or find guys for open triples.
Denzel Valentine provides a spark
GarPax said that with McDermott traded, Denzel Valentine would get a more extended run and he proved his worth against the Cavs. Valentine provided a boost off the bench with his 11 points. Coming out of college, Valentine’s main strength was his ability to be versatile and be a decent shooter. Not a sharpshooter but someone you can’t sag off of on defense. After a shaky start to the season (Hoiberg’s minute fluctuation when it comes to bench players didn’t help), he’s beginning to take on a bigger role and playing decently well.
He’s got to get better on defense and not let guys blow by him. If he can keep shooting well, it could go a long ways for Chicago. That along with his ability to make plays in transition and becoming more of a secondary ball handling option for the Bulls could make Valentine a piece of the future moving forward.
Bulls are on a mini-winning streak
Don’t look now but the Bulls are on a four game winning streak and as of last night, they are tied with the Pacers for the 6th seed. With the Nuggets, Warriors, and Clippers next week, that streak is likely to end but it does relate to this very true tweet by our own Jason Patt:
Bulls were about to be dead to rights after getting blown out by Suns/Wolves and now here we are. They do just enough to stay interesting.— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) February 26, 2017