Tag Archives: Jimmy Butler

Year in Review: Bulls stuck in crossroads, face difficult decisions moving forward

If there is one thing I will take away from this season, it is that this team is not ready to accept defeat and start over. Given the acquisition of Rondo, Wade, and Lopez, Gar Forman and John Paxson made it clear they want to remain a competitive team, despite prior indicating that they want to get younger as a team.

Being a franchise with one of the most prestigious histories in the league, these past few seasons have been strange for the Chicago Bulls. While their reemergence atop the East is in the rearview mirror, the Bulls have still been able to limp into the playoff race these past few years.

Now, however, the direction of their franchise is unclear. With Rondo, Wade, and Lopez’s best days likely gone, the front office has to decide whether to replace them with young players on the rise, players who could make the team instantly competitive, or to rid themselves of their large financial obligations (Butler, Wade, etc.) and start from a clean slate. The first question though, is whether or not Fred Hoiberg will continue to lead next year’s team.

Between having to start backup PG’s, splitting starting minutes between Mirotic and Zipser, and defensive struggles, there is a lot of growing room for Fred Hoiberg as a coach moving forward. If the front office’s biggest inclination is to remain competitive, I believe that Hoiberg should be given another year to grow this team, as he showed flashes of success with the personnel he was given.

Looking forward to next year, keeping Fred Hoiberg could offer promising improvements from many players on this team. For one thing, we saw guys like Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser show the ability to be competitive players, maybe not immediate starters albeit, but competitive nonetheless. Additionally, Hoiberg’s offensive wisdom may help Portis or Denzel Valentine develop into the scoring threat the Bulls need.

That being said, it would be foolish to expect significant improvement from the aging veteran starters that snuck this team into the postseason. It is only fair to Fred Hoiberg, or whoever else coaches this team next year, that the front office gives them more rising talent. As of right now, Rondo and Wade are on the wrong side of 30 and Lopez is approaching there as well. The Bulls, and their fans, are in dire need of players who can improve and thrive alongside Jimmy Butler. While improvements from their younger players may help keep the Bulls in the playoff picture for another year or two, this team does not have a foundation that is built to succeed in the Eastern Conference as is. Moving forward, I would expect and hope that the Bulls front office makes a bit of a splash this offseason in order to shake things up. Given the relatively low ceiling this current group has, it is probably also in Forman and Paxson’s best interest to make some significant changes.

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Note-A-Bulls: Isaiah Thomas leads Celtics to 104-95 win at the UC to even series

I feel sorry for any Bulls fans that thought a 2-0 lead coming back to the United Center meant anything. For the fourth time in as many games this series, the road team has come away with a victory. Tonight’s final score: Boston 104, Chicago 95. With the shocking loss of Isaiah Thomas’ younger sister Chyna prior to Game 1, the Celtics were dealt a difficult blow, and the Bulls were gifted a head start in the series race, as the Boston squad struggled to figure out how to cope with their team’s leader suffering mentally and emotionally. But the two days off heading to Chicago did wonders for the Celtics, and now, the discrepancy between these two teams both in talent and cohesion is starting to show: the Celtics won two convincing games in Chicago to even up the series and regain home court advantage.

  • Jimmy Butler is trying to do it all on his own — God knows he’s not getting any help. Check it out: 45 minutes (out of 48!), 33 points, 19-23 from the charity stripe, five rebounds, nine assists, and a steal. He couldn’t find his shot from three point range tonight, missing all three of his attempts, and the Bulls could’ve used it. Butler kept the Bulls in the game, but the Celtics were just too much.
  • I never thought I’d say this, but the Bulls miss Rajon Rondo. He’s been super sub-par, bordering on terrible the entire year, but in the first two games of the series he was a rockstar. It’s like a switch flipped in his head and he decided he wasn’t allowed or supposed to be awful anymore. But Rondo has been sidelined for two games (inj, hand), and the Bulls are suffering for it. They’ve been playing their best (worst?) version of YMCA hero-ball trying to figure out who’s going to take the 1-on-1 matchup this time down the court.
  • Speaking of Wade (^^ duh), he was worse than a non-factor tonight; he was a hindrance. He had a whopping 37 minutes of court time, but only had 11 points off 12 shots, and six rebounds to show for it. Honestly, sometimes I forget he’s out there. There was a time when a Wade breakaway was not only a bucket-certainty, but just a matter of how high up the SC Top 10 it was going to climb. Tonight, no such luck. One noteworthy fast break resulted in a Wade missed layup and Boston coming back the other way with numbers.
  • Nikola Mirotic and Isaiah Canaan each put up 13 points. Canaan hit three shots from beyond the arc and finished with +11 in 34 minutes, getting more usage with Rondo out. Worth noting: Rondo was fined by the NBA for attempting to trip Jae Crowder in Game 3 (smh).
  • For the second time in two games, the Bulls dug an early 20 point deficit, erased it by storming back to get into the game, only to fall by double digits in the end. It was sparked when the Celtics led 41-21 early in the second quarter: Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and took it down for a layup. In a weird series of events, Smart faked throwing the ball at Butler, the two got up close and personal, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to catch fire. Sometimes it takes something strange to change the momentum. It’s unsurprising, though: the NBA is a game of runs, and when you get down a bunch, it’s expected that the team with the deficit will make it interesting. The Bulls did just that, but could never get over the hump and take any meaningful lead. Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics found ways to close the door on any hope pretty quickly.
  • A note about Isaiah Thomas: he’s back doing what he does best: attacking, driving, dishing, leading, and playmaking. In Game 4, he dominated the stats sheet: in 35 minutes, Thomas drained 10 buckets off 21 shots, added 12 free throws for 33 points, seven assists, and a steal to boot. He had a massive +17 during his time on the floor, by far the best mark of anyone on either team. He says he’s not really in the game, so if that’s true, his teammates are helping him do a phenomenal job playing pretend. He and Celtics share the ball beautifully and get great looks. The Bulls should take note.
  • Up Next: Game 5 in Boston on Wednesday. The team that wins Game 5 when the series is knotted at 2-2 goes on to win the series over 80% of the time. Game on.

Note-A-Bulls: Rondo shines as Bulls take commanding 2-0 series lead over Celtics

After a surprising game one victory, the Chicago Bulls looked to earn a commanding 2-0 lead on the No.1 seed Boston Celtics. It’s safe to say that stealing one game in Boston is already a huge positive for the Bulls, but with a chance to put a chokehold on a potential NBA Finals team, the Bulls had a great opportunity to make even more noise than they did in Game 1.

Boston began the game on a 7-0 run, with star point guard Isaiah Thomas scoring five of the team’s first seven points. However, that was the best part of the quarter for Boston. After former Celtic Rajon Rondo hit a short jumper to give the Bulls an 11-10 lead, Chicago got hot. The Bulls went on a 14-5 run throughout the middle of the first quarter. However, despite the extremely promising start, these are the 2016-17 Chicago Bulls. In the last two minutes of the quarter, the Celtics cut the Bulls lead to five, with the box score reading 31-26 in favor of the Bulls.

Boston’s hot end to the second quarter continued early on in the second quarter. After Jae Crowder made a layup from Marcus Smart, Boston tied the game at 36. However, the Bulls did not let Boston’s large run that stretched across the end of the first and early into the second break their spirit. They were able to push their lead back to ten, after Boston missed seven consecutive shots. Robin Lopez (Yes, Robin Lopez) continued to take advantage of Boston’s poor rebounding. It was assumed that Lopez would have a decent series, but no one saw what he is doing. At the 4:50 mark in the second, Lopez had eight points and four rebounds, shooting 80 percent from the floor. The great play didn’t stop there. Boston took at timeout at the 4:50 mark. However, right after the timeout, the Bulls pushed their lead to eleven off a great breakout pass by Rajon Rondo. Boston finally registered a field goal for the first time in five minutes after Crowder hit a three to cut the lead back to eight. The Bulls held strong as the half closed out, keeping their lead at eight. Rondo (Yes, Rondo) was leading the way for the Bulls. He finished the half with a vintage Rondo stat line, with eight points, nine assists and seven rebounds. On plays where Rondo could help the Bulls create a shot, they shot 59 percent from the floor. On plays where he wasn’t involved, they only shot 38 percent. The Bulls did a great job in the first half taking care of the basketball, as they only had four turnovers.

The third quarter started out promising for Boston, but the Bulls continued to keep their foot on the gas. The Boston crowd was doing everything and anything to push their beloved Celtics to break out and get a lead. Al Horford, who only had three points in the first half, began the scoring with a strong dunk to try and get that crowd up. However, you could just see we were in for a fist fight. Lopez had all six of the Bulls points to start the quarter, keeping their lead at one at the 8:10 mark. The good play continued for the Bulls, as once Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade returned to the floor, they went on a 15-6 run to put their lead back to ten. That run would continue, as after a Boston timeout at the 4:56 mark, the Bulls scored nine unanswered before Boston finally found a basket to cut the Bulls lead to twelve. As the minutes shrunk, the Bulls continued to stand tall. Michael Carter-Williams made a surprise appearance into the game, after Jerian Grant looked lost on an offensive possession. Jimmy Butler was barking at Grant for a good five seconds. After three, the Bulls led 86-75. Boston, with twelve minutes to go, needed a push early in the fourth if the Bulls weren’t going to steal Game 2.

The fourth quarter started how you’d expect it would, the Bulls started out OK. Again, Boston was searching for everything and anything to get their crowd loud and make a push to get the lead. Kelly Olynyk sunk a three at the 10:04 mark, cutting the Bulls lead to nine. Fred Hoiberg made a smart decision, by taking a timeout immediately after the three. The last thing the Bulls needed was to let the Boston crowd back into this game. As the minutes shrunk, the intensity of the game certainly increased. You could see Boston fighting on every possession, but not getting the result they wanted. The Bulls continued to keep their foot on the gas and stand tall. At the 6:01 mark, the Bulls earned their largest lead of the night of 16, after Rondo registered his 14th assist of the game on an alley-oop to Cristiano Felicio. After that play, the Boston faithful finally seemed to go quiet. As a result, the Bulls were able to slow the game down, and wind down the clock. Eventually, that clock hit 0:00, and the Bullsß earned a 2-0 lead on the Celtics. Wade finished the game as the leading scorer, with 22 points. However, it was Rondo and Lopez that anchored this win. Rondo finished one assist shy of a triple-double, and Lopez finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, shooting an astounding 73 percent from the floor.

What a bizarre first week of the playoffs for the City of Chicago. I don’t know what’s happened, but somehow this is working. The Celtics are one of the weaker No.1 seeds you’ll see, but nobody saw this. Nobody saw Rajon Rondo dancing with triple-double numbers, or Robin Lopez averaging a double-double. However, these things have happened, and your Chicago Bulls lead 2-0 in a series that nobody thought they had a chance in. The Bulls can’t take their foot off the gas heading into Game 3, as Boston is going to do everything to steal one back at the United Center and make this a series. However, one thing is for sure. The UC is going to be a “sea of red” on Friday night.

Up Next: The Bulls return to the UC Friday night vs. the Celtics where there is sure to be a raucous crowd for this now-surging team.

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls shock Boston in Game One 106-102 to steal home-court from East’s #1 seed

One win down. Three to go. In what shall henceforth be referred to as the Bobby Portis Game, the Chicago Bulls stunned the #1 seed Boston Celtics by a score of 106-102 in the TD Garden to take a 1-0 series edge in this best of 7 first round clash.

Bobby Portis had far and away his best game as a Bull, scoring 19 on 8/10 shooting and 3/4 from deep while grabbing nine boards, the Arkansas product kept the Bulls in this game when it looked like Boston may take hold of the game. Ending the game with a +/- of +12, Portis’ confidence shown through at a critical time in this game when Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade were unable to find their shot.

In a back and forth affair throughout, this was by no means the prettiest playoff basketball on display thus far. There were turnovers, 35 total, poor shooting, neither team shot above 43 percent, and just overall sloppiness in this contest. But that didn’t mean this one was without intensity.

After tragically losing his sister Chyna in a car accident on Saturday, Isaiah Thomas somehow managed to suit up in Game 1 for the Celtics and did not disappoint. Thomas ended the game with 33 points, six assists, and five rebounds on 10/18 shooting in an inspirational effort by the diminutive guard. Thomas was able to get in the lane at will against this Bulls squad until Butler switched on to him in the last half of the 4th quarter. From that point on, Thomas found it much tougher treading as the Celtic offense struggled down the stretch with their best player being locked down by the Bull’s superstar.

In a first half where both teams probably felt fortunate to be in the game, the Bulls went into the locker room with a slim advantage 48-46. The Bulls were shooting a measly 2/14 from beyond the arc and only 38 percent overall. Meanwhile, the Celtics had turned the ball over 11 times before the break and had surrendered a whopping 16 offensive boards already. While both teams were feeling fortunate to be in the game, they also both were probably shaking their head at the inability to create a double-digit lead due to the other teams poor play.

In the second half, the difference came down to bench productivity and one team having Jimmy Butler. Both those landed in favor of the Bulls, as on top of Portis, Jerian Grant and Cristiano Felicio each contributed positive minutes with Grant hitting a huge three late in the last frame.

After that, Jimmy Butler did what he does best, try to single handedly close out games for this inconsistent Bulls squad. Fortunately, he was able to do so. Scoring 23 of his 30 points after halftime, Butler stepped up when his team needed him most, knocking down some clutch contested treys while the game hung in the balance. His defense down the stretch on IT also proved critical in shutting down the Celtics the last five minutes.

While Sunday night was a rare bright spot for this organization over the past few years, it wasn’t without its reminders of why the Bulls secured the East’s 8th and final playoff seed. Nikola Mirotic was downright horrific in Game One. In 19 minutes, the forward scored just four points on a dreadful 1/9 from the field including 0/5 from three. His defense also showed little to be desired as his mere presence on the court put the Bulls at a disadvantage on both ends. The Bulls will need Mirotic to step up his game if they want to take three more in this series to pull the upset.

Additionally, while the Bulls somewhat solved their woes in the 4th quarter, they still struggled to close out the game. Thanks to a couple unforced turnovers by the Bulls, the Celtics received ample opportunities to come back in the final minute of play. If they hit one of their open threes in that final minute, we could easily be talking about another 4th quarter meltdown for Los Bulls. Fortunately that was not the case, but again, they need to tighten this thing up if they really are going to push the Celtics in this series.

As for the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas was great. His effort was nothing short of herculean given what he went through over the last 24 hours. Unfortunately, there were times when he seemed to be on an island out there getting no help from his teammates. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley need to perform better than their 9/25 combined shooting night to take some of the pressure off of IT. Thomas ended the night with a +/- of +12 in 38 minutes of play. The Celtics can’t be that bad in the 10 minutes per game Thomas is on the bench, and with the bench combining for only 22 points, that was not the case on Sunday night.

Up Next: The Bulls will look to take a commanding 2-0 lead back to the UC on Tuesday night in TD Garden where the Celtics will be out for revenge.

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls storm back in the 4th to ground the Hawks and move in to playoff position

With the final two playoff spots up for grabs in the East, the Bulls are trying to scrape up enough wins to squeak in ahead of the Heat or the Pacers. The victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers could be chalked up to match-ups and #TNTBulls, but the Atlanta Hawks are a team the Bulls have failed to beat all season. Erasing a nine-point fourth quarter deficit with under five minutes to play, the Bulls stormed back and shocked the Hawks with a 106-104 victory, making it the Bulls’ third straight win and fourth out of their last five, as they move to 37-39 on the season.

  • Jimmy Butler came up big in this game, hitting a huge three late in the game, and draining the winning free throws with 2.1 seconds left after getting fouled on the arm late in the shot clock. He scored the Bulls’ last nine points and had 33 for the game, along with eight assists.
  • Denzel Valentine had two very big fourth quarter threes and added 13 points on 45.5% from the field. Interestingly, Nikola Mirotic led the team by a long shot in +/- with a +17, but his line wouldn’t suggest it: eight points with just two field goals, nine rebounds and five assists. Talk about being on the court at the right time(s).
  • Rajon Rondo had a very solid game with 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 35 minutes. In an unusual shooting performance, he had 18 attempts, knocking down 11, including three of six from behind the arc. Although he had seven turnovers, he also included three steals to help pad the stat line. He and Robin Lopez combined for a +13, and while Lopez was relatively quiet on the boards (four), he played 36 minutes and was a strong presence down low.
  • After taking a six point lead into the locker room at the half, the Bulls were able to surmount a 56-46 lead early in the third quarter, but Tim Hardaway and the Hawks’ offensive boards had other plans. Hardaway took the Bulls for 11 straight points including two threes, one after a flurry of offensive rebounds. After a 13-4 run, the Hawks regained the lead, eventually taking a five point lead at the end of the third quarter. The Hawks built that lead up to ten, and even held that aforementioned nine point lead with under five minutes to go in the game before Butler and Valentine helped the Bulls claw back and steal it in the final seconds.
  • Meanwhile, Bobby Portis is still struggling to find his way. He was pretty close to dead weight: in 17 minutes, he was scoreless on 0/4, all of them from three point range, and led the team with a -15 (oops).
  • Paul Millsap was out for Atlanta, which most certainly contributed to their late-game struggles on both ends. The Hawks are vying with the Bucks for the 5th seed, and a strong game for Dennis Schroder at 29 points and seven rebounds demonstrated that the will was there, but they couldn’t get it done.
  • Next Up: The Bulls travel to New Orleans to take on Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and the Pelicans. The Hawks play in Brooklyn against the Nets.