Rose, Butler Lead Bulls Past Knicks

Rose, Butler Lead Bulls Past Knicks
Photo by Keith Allison

Welcome to the NBA, Jimmy Butler.

The rookie from Marquette, who the Bulls drafted last summer with the final pick of the first round, saw the first major non-garbage time minutes of his NBA career in the Bulls' 105-102 win over the Knicks in Madison Square Garden Thursday night.

If you didn't watch the game and you are only looking at the box score, you are probably wondering what I have been smoking to start off my game recap talking about Butler. In a career-high 20:43, Jimmy scored seven points (2/5 FG, 3/4 FT) and had two steals, one rebound, one blocked shot, and one assist. Nothing special, right?

But the most important number was the zero- as in zero turnovers. He played all but nine seconds of the fourth quarter, and late in the game the Bulls' go-to play on offense was a Rose/Butler pick and roll. He never turned the ball over, he almost always made the right decision when he wound up with the ball, and he even hit a huge 13 foot jumper with 1:08 to play and the Bulls clinging to a three point lead.

But the reason he's getting all this praise is his defense. He was responsible for checking Carmelo Anthony for most of the fourth quarter, and 'Melo scored only four points on 1/6 shooting in that time. In fact, two of 'Melo's points came from the free throw line in the final seconds when Ronnie Brewer was on him.

Thibs went with Rose/CJ/Butler for almost the entire fourth quarter, and to be perfectly honest with Deng and Hamilton out, this is probably the Bulls' most balanced combination. Butler is an outstanding defender, and once he gets more comfortable he'll be a better offensive player than Brewer.

Of course, the Bulls don't win this game without the MVP- Derrick made some unbelievable circus shots throughout the night, and he might have had his best all-around game of the year. He finished the night with 32 points (12/26 FG, 2/5 FG, 6/9 FT) and 13 assists, only turning the ball over twice.

Every time the Knicks made a run in the fourth quarter, Rose had the answer- he scored 15 points (5/9 FG, 2/2 3's) with a pair of assists and zero turnovers while playing the entire 12:00. He did an outstanding job of handling the Knicks' half-court trap, and you never really had a feeling that the Knicks had a chance to win this game.

Rose didn't do it alone, however, on this night. Kyle Korver got off to a blazing start, knocking down a trio of 3's without a miss in a 3:00 span of the first quarter. He finished with a very efficient 16 points (4/7 FG, 3/5 3's, 5/5 FT), and he even had one outstanding defensive possession against 'Melo.

Boozer chipped in with 16 points (7/12 FG) and 9 rebounds, and he hit a few big jumpers when the Bulls needed them. Watson had another very nice night with 12 points and three steals in just over 19 minutes off the bench.

Noah had another solid game with 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.

Amare Stoudemire was simply a beast, scoring 34 points (16/27 FG) and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Anthony scored 26, but it took him 26 shots to get there. After a nice first quarter where he moved the ball and had two assists, the rest of the night he was his usual offense-stopping self, recording only one assist vs four turnovers over the final three quarters.

The Bulls now have a day off before playing at Milwaukee on Saturday (7:30 PM CT on WGN America, preceded by BullsEye at 7). They have made it through the hardest part of this nine game road trip going 2-2, now they play five games against teams who entered Thursday with a combined record of 36-75.

If the Bulls can win four of five to finish the trip 6-3, they will be in outstanding shape schedule-wise. They would be 23-7 with 23 of their final 36 games at home, and that would certainly make them the favorites to finish the season with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

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  • so not the most impressive win, because of the defense, but with Lu and Rip out you gotta be happy with any win...You hit on all the positives- Rose, Butler, Korver and some offense from Booz when needed...I'm not trying to be negative here, just looking at some things cause I already know how good the Bulls are...

    I was surprised by some poor defense- not by Booz, but by Noah...There was at least a few times when he would just slap at Stoudamire and he looked like Boozer out there. Would like to see the "hands" defense taken down a notch from Booz and Noah, cause Amare was feasting on those 2 with his best game of the season. When a guy who usually doesn't take it the the hole as often as he does sees how poorly the interior defense was, it's a little concerning...
    Don't wanna say bad things about Rose, cause I love him as much as anyone, but you could tell he was forcing a few shots in the final 2 minutes. The reason he forced them was because the Bulls would let the shot clock get down to 5 seconds before doing anything. I understand wasting some clock, but at that point, I'd rather see the Bulls run some normal offense (through Rose of course) and take the shot whenever it's there...

    Finally, am I crazy to think "what the hell are you doing Brewer" when he fouled up 4? So u make them make free throws, but then u put pressure on your own guy. If they just forced a 3 pointer there, it woulda taken a couple more seconds and still even if made ur ok...I just hope that isn't a game plan for the future...ok my nitpicking done, love Da Bulls...

  • You make some excellent points, Keep, very nice post.

    I didn't mention the defense outside of Butler because IMHO the rest of the team didn't play particularly well on that end of the floor. Despite the presence of Melo and Amare, the Knicks are not a good offensive team- they came into the game ranked 19th in Off Eff.

    The Bulls allow an average of 98.4 pts/100 poss and the Knicks put up 111.2 last night.

    Granted, a lot of their success was because Amare is a horrible matchup for Boozer (not that there are a lot of good matchups for him), he had a season-high in points. And it was by a good margin, Amare's previous season-high was 25, and he had only been over 20 twice in his previous 11 games. He's shooting a career-worst 44.3% from the field on the year, and he shot over 59% last night.

    It's hard to complain when he had 13 assists, but yeah Rose definitely forced a few things on offense late in the game, but it might have been because he didn't trust anyone else to make a big shot. Butler was timid on offense, and Boozer passed up a few wide-open looks as well. When Brewer was out there he was garbage on offense, and after the first quarter they weren't giving Korver any looks at all.

    Thibs said after the game that it was a "miscommunication" between him and Brewer on that stupid foul in the final seconds, but I don't buy it. I just think he didn't want to throw Brewer under the bus in the media- he obviously wasn't happy with Ronnie's play last night, that's the whole reason Butler played all but 9 seconds of the 4th quarter.

  • yea, just read that about Brewer, guess it was just him making a dumb move...looks like we are realizing how important Deng is, and Rip for that, cause as you said, Rose didn't have confidence in anyone making a shot, very understandable...with Rip and Deng back later in the year, the Bulls should be able to close these types of games easier without forcing Rose to take tough shots.

  • In reply to Keep:

    I don't know if you're old like me, but I still remember the MJ Bulls before Phil came along, Jordan had no confidence in anyone on the team other than himself. Of course it was hard to blame him when he was playing with the likes of Sam Vincent and Brad Sellers, but once Phil came along and installed the Triangle offense, the other players gained confidence in themselves and MJ gained confidence in them.

    Of course IMHO the Bad Boys and Chuck Daly's Jordan Rules had a hell of a lot to do with it as well. MJ figured out that a team can stop one guy if they concentrate their entire defensive effort on one player. They didn't leave him much choice other than to trust his teammates.

    It might take another playoff loss or two to the Heat where their defense demands that he give the ball up before Rose figures it out.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I'm 27, so I only remember from about 1990 on, and only the last 3 championships are fresh in my mind....yea I hope Rose does find a way in the playoffs to know when to take over and know when he has to rely on his teammates, and hopefully everyone will be ready when the time comes

  • In reply to Keep:

    A lot of times it's the defense that will dictate what he needs to do- of course he has to pass when he's double-teamed as soon as he crosses half-court, but also if he beats his man and there are 3 defenders waiting at the rim for him, that means there should be at least 2 Bulls unguarded.

    Just like the play where Scalabrine missed the 3 late in the game- I didn't have a problem with him passing, because the entire Pacers roster was in paint waiting for him.

    I'm not too worried about it- he is certainly unselfish enough to pass the ball, IMHO it's just a matter of getting more experience and recognizing the packed lane a little earlier.

    You're too young to remember, but there were several years in the late 80's that even people in Chicago thought the Bulls would never win a title with MJ scoring so much- until 1991 when the Bulls won the championship, not one player who led the league in scoring had won a championship that season.

    Of course, MJ proved them wrong 6 times over...

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    LOL - Don, the clinch game with the Lakers ... Jordan kept trying to force his shots - finally, Jackson looked at him in the huddle - and said, "Who's open?" Jordan thought, said, "Paxson." I think Pax had 10 or 12 late in the 4th.

    I think the Steve Kerr shot is being replayed on CSN Sunday. Kerr said Jordan punched him in practice one day. Kerr knew he couldn't let Jordan punk him - so he fought him. Kerr recounts that there was a message on his home phone - from Jordan - apologizing.

    B.J. Armstrong was quoted as saying that, in order to try to understand MJ better, he looked for books about geniuses and their gifts.

    Dennis Hopson, Brad Sellers ... umm, not so much.

  • I've grown to like Butler quite a bit. I didn't know a single thing about him as a player when he was drafted, but was encouraged when I looked into his play and advanced statistics following the draft. His play so far in a Bulls uniform has reinforced my initial impression of him as a player that goes to maximize his value as a supporting player with the combination of being a plus defender and very efficient with his limited offensive opportunities. He can help a team play winning basketball.

    He finishes the shots he takes or gets to the FT line, avoids turnovers, moves the ball, and has a nose for offensive rebounding. Defensively he's disciplined and physical, and can finish plays with the rebound. While there are certainly times I wish he was a better athlete, the way he has finished through contact at the rim consistently so far has alleviated some of that concern. Now we will have to seen how much confidence and consistency he can eventually show as a shooter.

  • Good post scotter, I'm right there with you- sometimes you see a guy play and even though he's not having a huge amount of success at the moment, you can just tell he "looks like a player", if that makes any sense.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Don, in baseball, Brenly refers to it as a player being "hitterish."

    Having seen him on TV at Marquette, I liked the pick. K.C., Stacey and Aggrey Sam have raved about the kid. Getting minutes like that, at a time like that, in a game like that - absolutely huge - for the kid and the team.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    I don't watch the Cubs very often nowadays, but I've never heard that one. That's an excellent description, I'm assuming Castro falls into that category?

    If Butler even turns out to be as good as Taj- who was drafted in a similar spot- he will wind up being an absolute steal.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    very good point scooter, you could already see the defense and more importantly the versatility on defense he is going to have...and ur point about confident shooting especially is the key with this rook making an impact....Don, you read my mind when saying he "looks like a player". I think that is what everyone should be seeing...He really could be a solid contributor in a couple of years when other guys like Korver, Brewer or Watson may not be here.

  • In reply to Keep:

    I'm not one to get very excited when a guy has a good game or two on the offensive end, because anyone can get hot for a week or two.

    But defense is usually a constant as long as the effort is there, and once the Bulls get a true second option on offense (at a Pippen level, not a Deng/Rip/Boozer level) guys like Butler who play balls-out defense are going to be very valuable to this team.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Don - I think you undervalue Deng's contributions and value on offense. He runs the floor, runs the offense, and will take the big shot.

    Taj, Butler, and Asik (IMHO) are keepers - for their defense alone. Taj is sneaky good around the basket.

    I'm watching the 4th quarter of the replay - late in the 4th, when Amare had the ball and was on the drive, you can hear Thibs screaming "go" for the double team to come - too often, either slow or late.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    It's funny to read that, because in the past I was always seen on RealGM and (before they drove themselves out of business) as over-valuing Deng and undervaluing Gordon.

    But you could be right here, I'm just not sure that Deng is a true #2 option- but then again he's only 27 years old, he is just now starting to come into his prime.

    I'm very impressed that he has improved his 3-point range, I love the finger-roll he's shown this season, and he's gotten much better at being able to drive to the basket without having the speed to just blow past guys (because he's learned how to drive and keep his body between his defender and the ball).

    I would just feel better if we had a SG who was more like Rip in his prime and Deng was the #3 option in the Toni Kukoc-ish role.

    I guess I still think the Bulls can win with Deng as the #2 scorer, but the #3 scorer needs to be almost as good as Deng.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I agree that Taj, Butler and Asik are all keepers for their defense.

    And let me add to my last post that the Bulls can win with Deng as #2 if Boozer does his job as #3- really Carlos has enough skills that if he just plays smart, he could be a very strong #3 on a championship team.

  • All kinds of crazy little things in the box - two that stood out: bench scoring - 25-6, and shots taken/points - K 90/102, B 74/105

    Amare and Melo took nearly 60% of the Knicks shots, accounting for a smidge under 60% of their points; DRose took just over a third of the Bulls; scored 30% of ours.

    Don't like it - at all - that he's just about "it" right now.

    I was screaming at the TV late - put in Taj! Bingo - stuffed Melo with great D and perfect timing. Butler was a manster!! If had been Thibs, I might have punched Booz in the face for not callin' out the screen that flattened the kid. (Okay - been tempted to!) Absolutely disgusting.

    Just fabulous that a national audience gets to see our MDP play that big on that big of a stage!!

    Great stats on the rest of the schedule Don. Next back-to-back is at the end of the month; one each in March and April. Get' em healthy Thibs!! Really little reason to get Deng back in before Boston IMO ... Let him practice, get in decent "game" shape.

  • Thanks MoneyBoy, I had forgotten all about the pick that almost killed Butler last night- that's a 15-yard penalty in today's NFL. Boozer deserved to get his ass kicked for that one, it was totally inexcusable.

    If you heard my Bulls/Knicks Preview Podcast yesterday, Brad Wolff said that the Knicks gave up too much to get Melo and that they have no depth. 6 points on 13 shots in 42 minutes combined for your bench is pretty disgusting.

    He also mentioned how the Knicks don't have a PG and they are relying on a rookie (Shumpert) to get it done- I totally forgot until they mentioned it on TNT during the game last night that the Knicks HAD an outstanding PG, but they amnestied him to sign Tyson.

    Now Billups has helped the Clips to a 13-7 start, first place in the Pacific and #3 overall in the West. And the Knicks still suck.

    If they were going to go without a PG, they should have just fired D'Antoni on the spot. That's like giving Thibs a lineup of Jamal, Vince, Turkoglu, Boozer and Bargnani- did the Knicks watch a Seinfeld rerun and decide to do the opposite?

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Thankfully, the Dolans are idiots!!! Giving D'Antoni a team w/o a good point guard is like trading for a QB known for his rocket arm and not giving him any top flight WRs (tongue firmly in cheek)

  • LOL, yeah well I have a hard time feeling sorry for Bears fans over Cutler's receivers- I'm a die-hard life-long Patriots fan, and outside of the past few years Tom Brady never had a decent receiver to throw to.

    Really it was only 2007- he missed 2008, Moss was done in 2009 so they only had Welker, and last year Gronk and Hernandez were rookies.

    This year Belichick has his dream receiving corps- I was reading a story somewhere in the last week or two about how Belichick first tried the two receiving tight ends thing back in the 70's when he was a low assistant with the Lions.

  • Ugly win for the Bulls, but a win is a win.

    Brewer has to do what he does best on offense, run the baseline and finish at the rim. We were all pleasantly surprised to see him start hitting jump shots when he was filling in for Rip at the 2. However he is still a below average shooter, by NBA standards, especially if he is shooting off the dribble.

    Great move by Thibs to match up Butler on Melo in the 4th quarter.

    The effort that Korver puts forth on defense is second to none. Yes, he is slow footed, has a hard time fighting over screens and seems to give up points every time he gets posted up, but the one instance when he had to defend Melo was a sight of defensive beauty.

    Deng is Rose's safety valve, especially in the 4th quarter, so it is not really surprising that Rose has tried to carry the team on his back during the last period of play. I don't like the fact that Rose has to take such a high volume of shots a game, but it is inevitable because the team just doesn't have enough high proficient players on offense when Rip and Deng are out.

  • In reply to stepbackJ:

    Brewer shot well for a few games, but I think we all knew he couldn't keep it up. Not from distance anyway, he's never been that bad from 12-15 feet but it's not like a SG or SF takes many of those shots.

    And you're 100% right about Korver, that one time he defended Melo was a thing of beauty. If we could combine his effort on defense with some athleticism, he'd be an all-star with the way he shoots.

    It's a shame Boozer doesn't step up in the 4th quarter, I've always defended him because the criticism he took was over the top. Now he's still not as bad as a lot of fans make him out to be, but this stretch without Deng should be his chance to step up and be a solid #2 option on offense, and I'm just not seeing it.

    But hey, maybe I'm being unfair now- he did go for 16 pts and 9 reb last night in under 31 minutes, and he shot 7/12 from the field which is over 58%. Those are all solid numbers that we should be happy with.

    Maybe it's just that he never looks like he's giving 100% effort, and if he did he could be a consistent 20/10 guy? Or maybe Thibs just isn't running enough pick and roll with him and Rose?

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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