Jimmy Butler hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer, allowing the Bulls to escape the United Center with an 85-84 preseason win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Butler scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the final 6:07 of the game, as the Bulls erased a 21 point fourth quarter deficit on their way to winning their third consecutive preseason game.
Thibs went to 3/5 of his starting lineup over the final 6:07, with Hinrich staying in for Rose and Snell playing ahead of McDermott (who started his 2nd game in the last 3 as Mike Dunleavy sat out with sore knees). But Noah and Gasol weren't involved in the offense, each of them taking only one shot in the 4th.
It was all about Jimmy Butler, as the Bulls continuosly fed him the ball in the low post, and Jimmy continuosly made the Hawks pay for having a smaller defender trying to cover him.
Butler made 5 of 7 shots from the field and 9 of 11 from the free throw line in the final 6:07, with the last three tying the game after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 14.1 seconds left on the clock.
Those free throws tied the game, but the Bulls allowed Dennis Schroder to make what looked like a game-winning layup with 1.5 seconds left. The play featured some horrible help defense by Joakim Noah, who turned the wrong way while defending the pick-and-roll, allowing Schroder to shoot an uncontested layup.
While it was nice to see Butler dominate in the low post over the final six minutes, there is no way that Thibs is happy with this win. Over the first three quarters, his team:
- Shot 34% from the field
- Made 1/13 three-point shots
- Committed 16 turnovers while forcing only 7
- Was outrebounded 38-35
If you're looking for any positives in this game, they are few and far between, and only take place in the fourth quarter:
- It's worth mentioning again that Jimmy Butler had 20 points over the final 6:07, making 5/7 from the field and 9/11 from the free throw line. He made his only three-point attempt of the quarter after missing his first three attempts of the game.
- After struggling in the first half, Nikola Mirotic scored 8 points on 3/5 shooting, including a pair of huge 3's to keep the Bulls in the game early in the 4th.
- Kirk Hinrich had 5 assists (vs zero turnovers) and a pair of steals, including the game-saver with less than 30 seconds left and the Hawks up by three points. If not for his second steal, which he turned into a Gasol layup with 23.9 seconds left, there is no way the Bulls win this game.
Even though the Bulls won this game, the entire team certainly needs to turn up their intensity quite a bit if they expect to compete for an NBA Championship this season. The entire team is coming out flat and completely unemotional to start games, and to be honest they aren't really picking up the pace until the fourth quarter (the Denver game notwithstanding).
Missing wide-open shots, playing with no sense of urgency on offense, and not rotating on defense is a sure formula for losing a lot of games - but that's where the Bulls are right now. One just has to hope that this team knows they are good and that they are waiting for the regular season to turn up the juice.
If not, this is going to be one long, painful season for Bulls fans.