Jimmy Butler was a late scratch from Monday’s game against the Bucks, but the Bulls were able to overcome their missing star on the wing with smart ball movement and excellent shooting. While Butler’s re-injury is both disappointing and frustrating (another great moment for the Bulls’ training staff), the team is finally rounding into form.
- Pau Gasol found a way to contribute to the win on a night where he couldn’t find his shot. The big Spaniard scored just 12 points on 4/14 shooting, but he blocked five shots, grabbed 17 rebounds and dished 13 assists to round out his second triple double since the All-Star break. Gasol did an excellent job finding cutters while working from the high post. Several times, too many Bucks defenders had their eyes on Pau and he made them pay for their mental mistakes.
- Pau wasn’t the only generous Bull on the court. Derrick Rose and E’Twaun Moore had seven assists each, and the team overall assisted on a season-high 35 of their 39 field goals. The Bulls are currently 15th in the league in assist percentage, something to be expected with two ball dominant guards capable of creating for themselves. But with Butler unavailable, the Bulls utilized smart passing to cover up a talent deficit.
- A lot of that smart passing led to wide open shots around the perimeter. Mike Dunleavy in particular cashed in on an uninspired defensive effort from the Bucks to close out at the three point line. Dunleavy scored 18 points on 7/9 shooting and 4/6 from three.
- My favorite thing about Mike Dunleavy is the way he runs to his spot above the break in semi-transition. Sometimes he sprints there when the Bulls have numbers. But the best is when he sort of saunters up to the line after the lead ball handler has forced a switch on the fast break. The uncovered Dunleavy times his arrival to his spot perfectly, always catching and shooting the ball in perfect rhythm.
- Derrick Rose carried the scoring load for the Bulls with Butler missing and Pau missing shots. Rose finished with 22 points on 9/18 shooting. Derrick knocked down a pair of three pointers and was effective attacking Milwaukee’s interior, especially when Greg Monroe was in the game. Rose was a team high +22 in his team-high 38 minutes.
- Part of the reason Rose had to play so many minutes was because, in addition to the absence of Butler, Aaron Brooks left the game midway through with pain in his knee. Brooks has been mostly horrible this season, but the Bulls really missed having another option at point guard. Rose is not built to play that many minutes on a consistent basis, and if Brooks is going to miss time, this team is in trouble.
- Having said that, E’Twaun Moore continues to impress in his increased role. The Boilermaker scored 16 points on 6/11 shooting. He dished the aforementioned seven dimes, and did not commit a single turnover in nearly 36 minutes on the court. Moore has stepped up for this team in a big way, and is in line to cash in during this crazy upcoming summer.
- The Bucks are all kinds of weird and intriguing. Their size and versatility on the wing is frightening. Giannis Antetokounmpo acted as defacto point guard much of this game and wracked up 10 assists. Jabari Parker flashed some elite speed and athleticism for a power forward on several strong moves to the hoop. Khris Middleton is a dynamic offensive player, able to shoot, drive and dish. If this team ever finds a suitable point guard and center to compliment the core on the wing, everyone is in trouble.
- Coming up: the Bulls head into San Antonio on Thursday for a matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the NBA’s second-best squad.