Derrick Rose returned to help the Bulls despite playing at what looked like half speed. Pau Gasol returned and dominated on offense during stretches. The Bulls jumped out to a big first half lead, but almost threw the game away.
In the second half, the Bulls couldn't rebound, struggled getting stops, and struggled to score. The Jazz built up a one point lead and had a two for one with the ball and 45 seconds or so left. The margin for error in this scenario is fairly small.
It requires a stop, a score, and a stop. Three straight possessions to swing in your direction. After the Jazz had played a very strong second half, they let it go in the critical moments. Trey Burke turned the ball over, and Butler stole the ball and sprinted in the open court going up against two defenders.
Derrick Favors blocked Butler, but the momentum of the play took all three players out of bounds and Mike Dunleavy was the only other player trailing the play. He put in his only bucket of the game, a wide open layup off the offensive rebound.
Derrick Favors tightened up on the Jazz's next possession missing badly, and the scrum for the loose ball resulted in a jump ball which Tony Snell won over Trey Burke, tipping the ball to Pau Gasol who split free throws.
The Jazz would get final chance down two. Gordon Hayward had almost three seconds and got off a three point shot which looked eerily similar to the one he nailed over LeBron to beat the Cavs. This time he fell well short hitting the front of the rim over the outstretched arms of Pau Gasol who did a great job rotating after it appeared Tony Snell misread the play and didn't switch properly.
Derrick Rose didn't look great, but provided a great help
Derrick was either playing at half speed because he was still hurt or simply taking precautions. He was clearly on a minute restriction as Thibodeau was willing to leave him out until the six minute mark where Rose got up to check in.
He was a bit sloppy with the ball and wasn't able to push the pace, but despite all of that he managed to score 18 points on 10 shots.
He knocked down the three early and when he came back in with the game on the line had a drive for an and one lay in. Derrick didn't have tremendous burst but used nice change of speed to draw the foul and get the critical hoop and free throw to put the Bulls up one before Utah countered to set up the end game described above.
Rose looked a bit limited with his lateral quickness defensively, but he showed that even with limitations he can help Chicago win basketball games. It was just the fourth game this season that Derrick finished, so Chicago has to count that as a plus.
Pau Gasol plays 37 minutes returning from injury
He had a planned rest which was ruined when Joakim Noah was poked in the eye and the Bulls were too scared to put in Nazr or Bairstow with the game slipping away.
Gasol looked downright nasty in stretches. His overall plus/minus on the game wasn't very hot, but he carried what little offense the Bulls had through some bad rough stretches.
One thing the Bulls struggle with is when Gasol contests shots by stepping away from the basket, the Bulls really struggle to rebound. Still, Gasol provided a huge lift for Chicago in the game with his offense.
Jimmy Butler's a stud
It's difficult to understate how great Butler is playing for Chicago. He's knocking down key shots, creating looks in crunch time, getting to the free throw line, scoring with big volume and great efficiency all while playing tremendous defense.
Butler had an interesting night, drawing a tech after getting shoved to the ground by Joe Ingles who clearly shoved Butler but also got pushed into him by Aaron Brooks. Butler walked over him while he was on the ground to express his displeasure, but players were separated and nothing escalated further though Butler drew a tech on the play which Utah tied the game with.
Jimmy knocked down a key 22 footer with shot clock winding down and the Bulls down four. He had a few big layups, and overall got screwed by the refs who called him on one offensive foul which should have been two free throws for him and missed another clear foul which should have been an and one.
Despite getting the short stick from the refs on several occasions, Butler was still 8/16 from the field and 8/9 from the free throw line for 25 points.
Nikola Mirotic's coming around
His lineups were a train wreck, but Mirotic gave the Bulls a lift on offense in his time on the floor. He knocked down a couple threes and showed some nice drives to the basket.
He finished four of nine from the floor and was robbed on another basket on what should have been a goal tend.
Mirotic needs to improve on his defense/rebounding, but he's certainly showing signs of life out there, and his plus/minus differential is impacted significantly by the poor combinations he's on the floor with.
Nice to come out with a win
The game started off great, but the Bulls failed to put the Jazz away. Utah had a shot to win at the end and really four shots that could have put them in the lead in the final minute, but missed them all.
The lack of rebounding again did the Bulls in as in Utah's big stretches they just dominated the offensive glass. Still, at the end of the year, this one just counts as W, and another win on the road. For Chicago, who was still playing short handed and with a rusty Gasol/Rose, it was nice just to get a win.
The Bulls play Denver tonight, and we'll have to see how much they have left on the second half of the back to back. It will be a great sign if Rose/Gasol are ready to go again on the back to back.
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