With all the major sporting events finished for the day, the Chicago Bulls had a game to play. Growing tensions were certainly swirling around for the Bulls with the uncertainty of their connection to Rajon Rondo, and if Fred Hoiberg is the right man to coach this team. Hoping to break out of a two-game losing streak, the Bulls squared up against the Hornets. Charlotte has had a decent season thus far, coming in at 19-15, with Kemba Walker leading the way for “Buzz City”.
Dwyane Wade was inactive for the game, which meant that there was added pressure for star guard Jimmy Butler to step up. Doug McDermott got the start in place of Wade, his first of the year. The Bulls sported their usual all white home jerseys while the Hornets wore their typical purple away jerseys. Robin Lopez won the tip with a rather large crowd on hand at the UC, and Bulls basketball was on the air. The first half of the quarter was back and forth between the two clubs. Shots were not falling in the first six minutes, as the score was 11-9 Bulls at that point. A timeout was taken at the 5:30 mark, after Jimmy Butler drained a mid-range jumper to put the Bulls up one. The back and forth play continued, as the Bulls led 19-16 with just over two minutes to play. However, it seemed like the Bulls had their offense in a good position. They were hitting jump shots, something they hadn’t been doing in quite some time. They finished the quarter shooting 50% from the floor. Of course, this solid offensive play did not translate to quality defensive play, as the Hornets kept the game close to the end of the quarter. After one, the Bulls led 25-23, as Jimmy Butler led all scorers with nine points.
Charlotte began the scoring in the second as Nicolas Batum hit a running layup to even up the score of the game. Both teams had most their rotation players on the floor, and Charlotte capitalized early in the quarter. They opened the second on an 8-0 run, headlined by the scoring of Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky. Fred Hoiberg took a timeout at the 9:50 mark, hoping to slow down Charlotte’s momentum. Out of all players, it was Michael Carter-Williams to hit a three and open the Bulls’ scoring for the quarter. The timeout had large importance for the Bulls, as they were able to break the Hornets run, and trim their lead. At the halfway mark of the second, the Bulls trailed by three, with the score 41-38. Jimmy Butler was in full command, as he was the only player to have more than five points at this point in the game. Butler finally received some help after the timeout, as rookie Denzel Valentine was hitting threes left and right. The Bulls led 48-43 with just under four minutes to play. They continued to live by the three, as they finished the half shooting just under 50% from distance, and almost 53% overall. Kemba Walker drew a rather questionable foul as the buzzer to end the half went off, and hit both of his free throws to cut the Bulls lead to one at the half. The score after twenty-four minutes of play, Chicago fifty-eight, Charlotte, fifty-seven.
The first big play that came out of the third was a defensive three seconds called on Roy Hibbert. Jimmy Butler hit the technical free throw, and the Bulls had the first points of the second half. The Hornets got off to a hot start in the quarter again, as they were able to jump out to a six-point lead. With just over ten minutes to play in the third, Hoiberg took another timeout in hopes to slow down the Hornets. Once again, it worked. Jimmy Butler continued his hot night by hitting a three, and the Bulls cut the lead down to four, and eventually tied the game with just over seven minutes to play. Butler just continued to be scorching, as he had twenty-nine of the Bulls sixty-nine points. In addition to his contribution through the scoring department, he had nine rebounds and six assists. Yet, Charlotte just continued to answer Butler’s heroics. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Hornets again went on a 11-2 run, putting their lead to eight, with the score 79-71. This game was more or less Jimmy Butler versus the Charlotte Hornets, and Jimmy kept fighting. Due to Butler’s efforts, the Bulls did not let the Hornets pull this one wide open. After three, Charlotte led by three, 85-82.
Looking to get some help for Butler, the Bulls began the fourth hoping to pull out a game in which they did not deserve to win. However, with Butler on the bench, the Hornets took full advantage. While they did not jump out to a large lead, they dominated the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Recognizing Charlotte could break this game open, Hoiberg took another timeout to stop the bleeding at the 8:48 mark. Fans cheered prior to play starting again, hoping that the Bulls could find a way to get this win. Doug McDermott was taking full advantage of the increased minutes, as he not only became the focal point of the Bulls’ offense with Butler resting, but he also was attacking the basket. Which, if you watch any Bulls basketball, know that this is a rare occurrence. With less than five minutes to go, the Hornets led 100-97. Butler, who had played thirty-three of a possible forty-four minutes, just continued to carry the Bulls. Notice a pattern? After hitting his fifteenth free-throw of the night, Butler and the Bulls had tied it at one-hundred. Big Macs were now in play. Just needed the win. The plot continued to advance, and Jimmy just continued to feast. He had eleven of the Bulls last thirteen points. He finished with a career high, fifty points. There is no other way of putting it, Jimmy Butler won this game, not the Bulls. The final score of what turned out to be a thriller, Bulls 118, Charlotte 111.
While the Bulls fought all night, and did come out with the win, this game was not pretty. Without Jimmy Butler, this game would have been over after the first quarter. There is carrying a team, and then there was what Butler did tonight. It was nothing short of incredible. Dwyane Wade is getting up there in age, and these rest nights are going to be more of a reality towards the end of the season. The Bulls will need to find a second option when Wade can’t suit up. Doug McDermott showed that he could be that option tonight, but we will need to see more out of him before we can conclude that. The calendar has switched to 2017, which means every game holds a large value for the Bulls. It’s safe to say that the Bulls are by no means a contender to win the East, but they are a playoff team. Luckily, you can afford to play mediocre basketball in the East and still make the playoffs, so Bulls fans have got that going for them. So let’s all just get used to mediocrity. The Bulls will travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers on Wednesday, looking to get a nice win against their division rivals.