For a moment in the second period, it seemed like it'd be the same old Bulls. Chicago went through one of those classic stretches where they simply couldn't score and the Clipper lead ballooned out to 14. Things looked grim for our heroes.
Chicago fought back. It wasn't pretty. Despite shooting under 40% from the field and horrible from the three point line, the Bulls somehow cut the lead to two points going into the half thanks largely in part to the play of Jimmy Butler who's closing half three point play (amongst others) after Taj Gibson tipped the ball away from Jamal Crawford into his hands helped close the gap.
Then the Bulls came out strong in the third and slowly built the lead higher and higher throughout the entire period until it swelled to 19 points. The Clippers would never make a serious run on the Bulls for the rest of the night.
Bulls don't need a SG
Jimmy Butler's PER on the season? 22.6. That's legit all-star caliber. His scoring per 36 minutes has swelled to 19 points a game. He's getting to the free throw line at a 7.1 attempts per game clip which is also in the star category.
His TS% is up to 62.5% which is rather eyepoppingly good as well. In short, Jimmy G Buckets is finally actually living up to the name. Maybe he was scared Dougie would still his nickname, not happening at this rate.
He's giving all that offense with elite defense as well. If Butler even stays close to this level by season's end, his max contract will be a formality, and we won't be debating about whether it's worth paying. He'll have gone from a guy we thought was worth 8 million to a "no brainer" max contract guy.
He continues to be the guy who bails the Bulls out whenever they need something regardless of what that something is. Key basket? Key stop? Steal? Assist? Butler's dominating this season.
Dunleavy/Hinrich comes up big in the second half
The Bulls first half three point shooting was poor, down around 25%, but in the second half, Hinrich and Dunleavy combined for 6/10 from beyond the arc which was the biggest factor in the Bulls big scoring third period.
Chicago started moving the ball well and knocking down shots.
There are plenty of games where Kirk Hinrich lets you down with his offense, but then he also gives you games like this one where he delivers great play on both ends of the floor and destroys it from the three point line.
When Kirk has a hot shooting night, the Bulls become an entirely different team.
Dunleavy has continued his quality play overall this season while McDermott has struggled mightily ending any thoughts about McDermott gaining starters minutes.
Front court steps up with Gasol out
Joakim Noah started off the season slowly, but he's rounding into form and is starting to more regularly look like an all-star. He was dominant on the glass and helped the Bulls keep a rebounding advantage over the Clippers athletic front court.
Noah was left free to roam around at night as he was matched up with DeAndre Jordan and left him frequently to double team. Jordan scored efficiently (5/6 from the field) but not with any volume and rarely made the Bulls pay for Noah locking down the paint.
Taj Gibson finally shared the ball recording six assists on the night, only his second game this season with more than two. He also went 9/13 from the field and overall dominated on offense. He outscored Blake Griffin on fewer shot attempts and kept Griffin out of the paint for most of the night.
In the end, the Bulls locked down the paint, especially in the second half. Chicago held the Clippers to just two fast break points and 24 points in the paint. The Clippers were content to chuck (and miss) jumpers and the Bulls cruised to an easy victory.
Big win for the Bulls
The Bulls played big against a quality opponent and without two of their premier scorers. Why is it that the Bulls are struggling at home (1-3?) or that they've been in dog fights (and lost a few of them) with some really sub par teams? Who knows.
However, it's nice to see Chicago come out and perform at a high level against one of the teams expected to be a premier team in the Western Conference, hopefully they can keep the momentum going against Sacramento and Portland.
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