Nikola Mirotic and Aaron Brooks were outstanding off the bench, and Jimmy Butler continued to dominate at shooting guard as the Bulls beat the Magic 98-90 on Monday with both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah taking the night off.
Rose was dressed and could have played, but with the Bulls playing first game of a 4-in-5 and 5-in-7 nights stretch of games, the team wisely held him out against the winless Magic. Noah sat out with flu-like symptoms, which gave Nikola Mirotic another chance to get more minutes - and the rookie continued to show why the Bulls waited three years for him and gave him the largest first-year salary any rookie has ever received in the Rookie Scale era.
The Nikola Mirotic legend continues to grow
We are only four games into the Nikola Mirotic era, but he continues to show all the Bulls fans who doubted him why the team put bringing him over this season at the top of their summer priority list.
Coming off his 12 point, 8 rebound performance against Minnesota, Niko played 23 minutes tonight and gave the team a very efficient 8 points while adding six rebounds and a career-high four assists. He did a great job on the boards in the first half, grabbing five boards, and also had a pair of assists but missed his only two shot attempts.
He then came up huge on offense early in the fourth quarter when the Bulls were struggling to score. After the team shot 4/18 in the 3rd quarter (Niko had assists on two of the made shots) and allowed the Magic to tie the game at 69 headed to the final 12 minutes, Niko drew a foul on the first possession of the fourth quarter, blowing by Channing Frye and sinking both free throws to give the team a 71-69 lead.
The Magic clawed back to take a 77-75 lead with under 10 minutes left, but Mirotic drilled a pair of long 3's in a 12-2 Bulls run that gave them an eight point lead that was never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
For his 4-game NBA career, Mirotic is now averaging 17.8 minutes, 6.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He is shooting .462 from the field, .455 on 3's (2.8 att/game), and 8/8 from the free throw line.
That's a true shooting percentage of .757, which of course will be impossible to maintain - but he just continues to show more and more each game. Assuming Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are still going to be Bulls next season, it's almost guaranteed that the team will wind up trading Taj Gibson next summer, as it will be impossible to keep Nikola Mirotic off the floor.
Aaron Brooks continues to make strides
I commented often on Brooks' horrible shot selection and defense during the preseason, but he continues to look better and better with each regular season game. He blocked three shots tonight, played better defense overall, and had 13 points and 8 assists in 30 minutes of action.
Brooks is already showing as much as D.J. Augustin and Nate Robinson ever did as Bulls, and he's only been in the system for four regular season games. It has taken him exactly a week to make all the constantly-negative, front-office-bashing Bulls fans (you know where they live on the internet, it ryhmes with "Peel Thee M") who STILL whine about Nate and who bitched all summer that Augustin wasn't retained look like fools.
I don't mean to leave out the rest of the bench, as McDermott looked very good with 12 points in 12 minutes and Tony Snell looked good with four points and three rebounds in 15 minutes as the team was +9 while he was on the floor. They are helping to show the haters that when Thibs has a bench with talent, he'll play it.
End of story.
Jimmy Butler, shooting guard extraordinaire
Jimmy continued to look incredible at shooting guard, although he did play a decent amount of small forward tonight as Thibs went with a Hinrich/Brooks/Butler lineup for much of the fourth quarter. Jimmy continued to show that he can dribble a basketball, and that if you give him a sliver of room, he's going strong to the hole for a finish and/or a foul and two free throws.
Jimmy now has 26 free throw attempts in his two games, and he leads the team in that department even though he's only played in half of the Bulls' games. He is so much stronger than other shooting guards that they simply can't guard him in the low post, and he's still quick enough to get by most of them if he gets just a little bit of room to operate.
In two games, he's been good for 37.0 minutes, 22.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.o steals and 1.5 blocked shots while only turning the ball over four times total. He's been good for a .583 true shooting percentage, plenty efficient for a shooting guard even if he still isn't a three-point shooter.
If you keep Jimmy on the floor with McDermott and Mirotic - who teams simply cannot leave at the arc - he is going to score A LOT of points very efficiently.
Primus pre-empts the Bulls
Tomorrow night's recap of the Bulls/Bucks game won't be posted until sometime in the middle of the night. My 10 year old son turns 11 later this month, so we'll be celebrating a little early in the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis tomorrow night for Primus and the Chocolate Factory. I'll be watching the game on League Pass online once we get to the hotel room after the show and posting my recap afterwards.
Tim Alexander (a/k/a Herb the Ginseng Drummer) is back with the band for this amazing tour (and the album covering the soundtrack from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory"), and it'll be Tyson's first time seeing Primus with Herb on the drums (and my first time since 1993).
If you've never seen Primus live, and seen what Les Claypool can do with a bass, I feel bad for you. If you've never heard Primus, I weep for you. I'll be sure to share pictures from our seats 2nd row center, I promise.