Butler's clutch plays just enough for Chicago

Butler's clutch plays just enough for Chicago

For three quarters it was a layup drill. Jimmy Butler had a couple of amazing tip dunks, the Bulls built up a mammoth lead, one that would surely put the game away.... Then someone put a lid on the Bulls basket.

The Bulls missed 17 straight shots, and the Pacers went on a 20-0 run, much of the damage done by Chris Copeland. Fortunately for Chicago, the Pacers used up all their makes coming back from their huge deficit and couldn't buy a bucket in the end game.

Chicago wasn't much better, but Pau Gasol hit a tough turn around jumper followed by some free throws for Noah and Butler, then Butler knocked down the three to put the Bulls up two.

Down the stretch, the Bulls have the ball with five second differential between shot clock and game clock and a two point lead. All Chicago had to do was launch a high arcing three and make contact with the rim as the shot clock winds down, and they win.

Rose was in position to do that, but drove in for the mid range shot instead of driving sideways for a three. Probably a good decision if he's thinking about making the shot rather than running out the clock, which I'm sure is every player's natural intention.

The ball rolled in and out and Indiana came away with the board, but was slow to call a timeout costing them some valuable time and leaving them just a half second.

That extra half second they could have had may have proved crucial as the Bulls left an opening for Indiana when a defensive breakdown on the final inbounds play left C.J. Watson with a wide open corner three.

Had Indy been slightly more patient on the pass in so that Watson could have gathered his feet prior to catching the ball the look would have been a lot cleaner. Had Watson another half second to work with in order to gather himself the look would have been a lot cleaner.

As it stands, Watson was open, but he had to catch, gather, turn, and shoot in one motion which made the shot much more difficult than it looked. He missed, and the Bulls hung on to win by two.

Derrick Rose regresses

It's not about his play so much as his decision making. Rose had a 5/20 night which isn't all that great no matter how you slice it, but his 1/7 night beyond the three point line was really ugly in that so many of them were rushed threes with bad form.

His attempts to force a basket for Chicago when they were in the midst of their scoreless streak were cringe worthy as well and largely fit the same model of Rose rushing shots and not gathering himself properly.

When you can't score, you need to get the ball inside. Get a post up, get a drive, draw a foul, something, but Rose kept jacking up off balance long range shots that weren't going in. I don't hate Rose shooting threes, but he should only shoot them when he's open, and his feet are set. His off balance threes feel like they go in at a ridiculously low percentage.

It's not a particularly big deal. Star players have bad games sometimes, but it does bring up my overall concern that while we've seen Rose shoot much better recently, we haven't seen him get back to the guy who can get to the basket at will. If he had that going for him too then he probably wouldn't have settled for those types of shots.

What's surprising about Butler is how clutch he's become

Butler doesn't seem like the greatest guy to create shots or bail your team out of trouble, but time and time again, he's been the man to hit a big backbreaking shot at the end of the game. Whatever the Bulls need, Butler is there.

What's been especially encouraging recently is that Butler's been huge even with Derrick Rose back. In Rose's initial games back Butler seemed to defer a bit more, but now, Rose and Butler have really found some nice chemistry together.

Jimmy's played so well that I've run out of superlatives, but knocking down the three to win the game? That's one which isn't really in his repertoire. With Jimmy, all things are possible.

As expected, Nikola can't find the court

His play is still strong when he does, but the Bulls aren't figuring out a way to get Mirotic out there for enough minutes. He's playing 8-10 minutes a game now. He looked good for his 10 minutes last night, but I'd like to see Chicago limit Gasol's minutes some and find a way to get Mirotic an extra five minutes a night.

Pau Gasol playing 28-30 minutes a night is probably in his own best interest as well as the Bulls, and it certainly would be a boost to Mirotic's development.

Oof, rough game for Aaron

Aaron Brooks has been a bad ass for Chicago this season, but he struggled badly in this one going 0-4 from the field with four turnovers. He didn't look aggressive out there, and it appeared like he lost some confidence in the fourth quarter.

There were several positions where the Bulls swung the ball to Brooks where he was open beyond the arc but instead of gathering himself and shooting, he took his time and set up to run a play. If Brooks gets an open three, I want him shooting it, especially when he has time to get a clean look.

Several times, he wasn't even aggressive enough to fake the shot then drive which would have put some pressure on the Indy defense as well, but overall, he just looked passive at the end of the game.

Passive isn't a good look for Brooks.

A win is a win

It was a downright ugly win, the Bulls scored just 11 in the fourth quarter and looked completely helpless on offense. It was a combination of bad shot attempts, poor shooting, and lousy continuity.

However, that's why the other quarters all matter. Chicago did enough early in the game to more or less completely collapse and still win. We've seen the Bulls drop a number of games like this in the past few seasons, but this year, it's been nice to see them do just enough to hold on and win after big collapses.

On to the Nets tonight. Brooklyn has won four of their last five and is playing a bit better, but they still don't have much in the way of quality wins. As long as the Bulls don't have a big let down, and last night's near collapse may help with that, Chicago should take this one.

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  • "His play is still strong when he does, but the Bulls aren't figuring out a way to get Mirotic out there for enough minutes. He's playing 8-10 minutes a game now. He looked good for his 10 minutes last night, but I'd like to see Chicago limit Gasol's minutes some and find a way to get Mirotic an extra five minutes a night."

    What? Have you been paying attention to the games lately? The last time Niko played 8 minutes was December 6th. In his last 5 games, he played 18, 14, 15, 17, and 11 minutes. He played 11 minutes last night because he was getting abused on defense either allowing easy scores or committing bad fouls. I think his minute distribution has been pretty fair lately.

  • This was a painful watch. They turned it on in the third quarter but really settled for bad shots in the 4th and coughed up a huge lead to a weak team. I find it hard to watch Derrick jog around the court and dribble at 1/2 speed. It's fine to be passive and set up your teammates, but walking the ball up the court, making a lazy pass to a wing after dribbling 10 seconds off the shot clock off before walking into the corner does not help your teammates. They are essentially playing 4 on 5, with half the shot clock gone before they get into the offense. Hopefully he starts picking up the pace soon. I do like that he is starting to defer to Jimmy in crunch time, and JImmy is starting to come take the ball.

  • In reply to piggy7:

    No shit. I hate how Rose does this. How can Thibs let Rose walk/ slow jog the ball up the court and start the offense with 12-14 seconds remaining in the shot clock?! He passes to the wing and does nothing. He did this with Team USA this summer. He should push the ball. Have someone else dribble the ball up the court if that's all the PG is going to do! Would love the Bulls to adopt the Spurs "play fast" style.

  • In reply to piggy7:

    Actually their demise started in the third quarter, but because they scored 33 points and increased the lead from 12 to 16 no one noticed or was paying attention.

    Basically their defense collapsed in the second half of third quarter. After only allowing 6 points in the first 5 minutes they allowed 24 the rest of the way with Indy scoring on virtually every possession over the last few minutes. But since the Bulls were still scoring until about the 2.5 minute mark their lead was only reduced from 21 to 16.

    Mentally they took their foot off the gas during the second half of the 3rd quarter which led to both sides of the collapse in the 4rth. Indy got confidence back in their offensive game, and we lost our edge offensively.

    Then the Indy announcers but the hex on us, by noting that the Bulls were 17-1 when leading after 3 and Indy was 1-18 when trailing.

    I thought that the Predator(Copeland) was supposed to be a one trick pony(3 point shooter), what the heck was he doing beasting everybody(including Butler) inside. The 3 that he did hit was a crazy momentum fueled shot and a pure heat check.

    Not that it is ever going to change but the Bulls pulled their anti 2 for 1 routine at the end of the first half again. They got the ball back with 48 second left, Rose lollygagged the ball up the court, putzed around until there were about 10 seconds left on the shot clock, then lackadaisically dumped the ball off to Butler who took his time going to the rim to get a shot off. By the time the scrum for the miss was over there was only 24 seconds left. I really don't get the purpose of this anti 2 for 1 strategy, especially since we end up taking a forced shot against the clock anyway. I guess it is just one more manifestation of Thibs blockheadedness.

  • I actually thought that most of Rose's shots were from a good selection and they just weren't falling. If I'm not mistaken, almost all of his shots came under 10 seconds of the shot clock and almost every 3 pointer he was fairly open, not just chucking them up. I really think he has to shoot that 3 or teams will sag off too much. Those will start going down at a better rate. If he can even get up to 33% or something this would not be a big deal, it is more about when and how he shoots them, and I would like to see when in the shot clock he takes these shots.

    Did Niko even get in for the 2nd half? I don't care if he was getting taken on D, Bulls coulda used him for 5 minutes in the 4th just to create some offense during the drought, definitely disappointed in that last nite, but he has been used enough in the previous 6 games.

    Was great to see Jimmy take control and keep that confidence high, and the Bulls realizing he was the go to and the end there, good team ball...Pau does make big shots to kill runs from other teams, and we forget about that sometimes.

  • In reply to Keep:

    He played in the first 3:24 of the drought. Fouled Scola twice and was scored on a couple times during that run.

  • In reply to jumpmanjay:

    ok, so Thibs did give him a chance early, thanks

  • Obviously, the team lost FOCUS. But why? Laziness! They won a game that they deserved to lose based on their 4th quarter.

    Everything you described about Rose shouts "mentally lazy"! Off balance shots, not setting his feet and squaring up for the shot, continuing to jack up 3s when he is not hitting - he should be driving instead.

  • .345. No that's not a winning instant game number. Nor is it Miguel Cabrera's batting average last season. No, .345 is the percentage of field goals made by the NBA's Chicago Bulls vs the Indiana Pacers last night. .345! I don't care what happens on an off night I get it, but any team that craps out a .345 game has problems with their offense. And fine if you want to pin that all on Derrick's 5-20 including 1-7 from three. Still, Joakim, Brooks, and Taj all fell victim as well.

    I checked the regular season box scores of last year's champion Spurs and the lowest field goal percentage i could find for a regular season game was 39%(admittedly I only went up to January). If some stat guy wants to check and can find let's say a below 36% for a regular season game of say the past five NBA champions then I'd certainly like to know about it. If there are even two or three champs with such lowly numbers in a game then I adjust my alarm at the .345.. slightly.

    No one would deny in the past the key to shutting down the Bull's offense was doubling Rose on the perimeter getting the ball out of his hands. It will be interesting to see if team's can get away with that again, and where Rose's field goal percentage is come playoff time(both two point percentage and the effect of volume of threes based on likely poor percentage).

    Granted I couldn't compel myself to watch last night's .345 brickfest(despite Butler's heroics), but we've seen this movie before. Frank Vogel and the Pacers as an example have generally been good at keeping Derrick's efficiency and thus the Bulls efficiency down. They sure as hell did it to him and them in the Bull's run to the ECF.

    We know Rose did not have the weapons he has now, but even so I'm picturing last night's game with them flashing a big to double as Derrick enters the front court, and Derrick just giving up the ball, and not penetrating much whatsoever. Even teams who were defensively bad in the past/at the time over Derrick's career like Golden State used this tactic and Rose shot a horrible percentage. Of course Miami used it in the ECF playoffs(along with sicking LeBron on him), and Derrick was in effect shut down.

    Here's the bigger point though, even if doubling Derrick was not the problem - Thibs yanking key players responsible for winning IS!

    This season in particular, Derrick's offensive freedom is/has been largely based on other threats being maintained. Aaron Brooks and Nikola Mirotic have been just that. They've been game changers particularly Brooks. One thing about Thibs is if a guy who's viewed as young, un-established, or known as a role player/bench guy aka flawed he will not hesitate to cut a guy's minutes even if that guy is playing very well over all and has helped the team win in an impactful way. I could easily see him doing this with Brooks if he hits a rough stretch beefing up Dunleavy's minutes with Jimmy rooted at SG. Also with Nikola if the Bulls are struggling, Thibodeau will revert back to Defense as in discarding Mirotic for Taj and Jo especially in fourth quarters.

    These "dismissals" are not the best thing for player confidence and offensive growth as in continuity. It's also not the best thing for team morale as players who have contributed significantly to winning are discarded.That's why you see so much hate for guys like Klank and Dunleavy as they are saftey valves for Thibs as "vets," but ones which actually leak and cause the water pressure as in efficiency of the offense to weaken considerably especially on many of their "off" nights.

    How much did an inferior player like Dunleavy play last night? I don't care if he had 10 good fortune rebounds either. 25 minutes of Dunleavy and 10 minutes of frankly a more impactful player if you're going to win in the post season all around in Mirotic is unacceptable. Also, you don't give up on key players having off nights aka Aaron Brooks. They have to learn to turn things around rather then getting yanked or else they will not have developed that trust and confidence in a playoff setting.

    Here's what I'd like to see happen. No more slowly plodding up court with the ball by Rose. None!. It's lazy as hell. Fire the ball ahead and then retrieve it when you reach the front court the way the Spurs do. And speaking of LAZY Derrick's over reliance on threes as in on certain nights once you're at 0-4 or even 1-4 that's enough threes!

    This is the most percentage of minutes wise Rose has played SG in his career according to I think that has something to do with Derrick's skyrocketing field goal percentages(and plummeting back to earth when he's gone to strictly the point). Granted it's only 9%, but in basketball I think anything relating to efficiency adjusted by 9% and then back to 0 makes a difference.

    Honestly, I think starting Derrick at PG makes sense from a perception point of view. Even then though I'd have him give up the ball and weave and run plays weak side and screening back cuts etc. to get him in prime scoring looks aka SG. After 8-10 minutes I'd bring in Aaron Brooks who is like it or not one of your key offensive threats including per minute. Brooks at PG and Rose at SG for the bulk of half's. No more Yankee Doodle Dandy with Aaron Brooks who is winning you a hell of a lot of ball games and same with Niko whose been a real spark in winning. Dunleavy(and Klank) be damned. Play the guys who brung ya Thibs you shortsighted, devaluing nit-wit.<Other wise though you're doing a hell of a job(ha-ha, but true).

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Fascinating analysis as usual, Warrior. I totally agree with you on Mirotic, he really needs more minutes to develop faster. What can that cost? A few games, one spot down in the playoff seedings? So what? The Bulls play better on the road anyway!

    Rose must be hurting to be moving so slow. OK, so he has to adapt. I get that . But that does NOT mean taking loads of 3s which he is not good at. Drive and shoot from 15 feet. Drive and dish. And when he does take 3s, set, square, and shoot. No off-balance shots. And think on the floor!

    Brooks, Dunleavy, and Hinrich all can have great shooting nights - and they all can stink up the court. But which of the three is the most dangerous? Brooks, of course. That should be reflected in his minutes. I agree with you.

    Dunleavy is simply not a starting caliber SF/SG. But he is a good backup. So it is obvious what the FO needs to do - just not so obvious how to do it.

  • I actually like how Dunleavy is playing. He spaces the floor, is a good passer and I think he is a decent team defender. He is not a gambler and doesn't force turnovers, but he does a decent job with his rotations and his on the ball defense for a guy whom you would think would be an awful defender. The Cleveland game was an eye opener, where he had to guard Lebron for almost the entire game with Jimmy out, and did a decent job funnelling him into help and contesting shots even though Lebron was hot. I do wish Rose would play more SG and let Brooks/Kirk handle the ball a little more and push the pace

  • In the last 3 minutes with the game within 5 points Butler is shooting 29% and 17-18 on FT's. In the last minute he is 0-7 and 9-10 on free throws. He's getting to the line but certainly not clutch.

  • Kind of shocked that you didn't question Gasol being on the floor for the final .5 of a second along with both Taj and Noah. with only .5 left on the clock there is absolutely no reason for 3 bigs being on the floor especially when one of them is a mobile as the Statue of Liberty.

    You want your 5 quickest/best athletes on the floor since you are in switch everything mode and all you have to do is deny the entry pass for a blink of an eye and they don't even get the shot off. If the shoe had been on the other foot the Bulls wouldn't have gotten the ball inbounds quick enough to get off a shot never mind getting a guy a wide open look at a corner 3. I almost wish that Watson had hit the shot so that this bonehead move would have gotten the scorn it deserves.

    The only justifiable reason to have Gasol on the floor would have been if Hibbert had been on the floor also. Hibbert hadn't been in the game since the early part of the 3rd.

    If you still insist on having Gasol in the game, then he should have been guarding the inbounder, since standing there like the Statue of Liberty would have at least served some purpose in impeding the inbound pass, and the inbounder was out of the play the second that he passed the ball.

    The fact that Rose and Noah fucked up the switch and Gasol just stood there flapping his wings carlos boozer style didn't make the decision look any better.

    Really, this was sheer stupidity and incompetence on the part of the entire coaching staff. As Stacey always says, KYP. It is practically a fireable offense.

  • with due respect, up by 2, i would have had gasol on the floor to protect against an alley-oop or layup with .5 seconds left. his standing reach has to be 9'3" and he is tough to shoot over. if we were up by 3, i would have gasol off the floor and agree with you

  • In reply to piggy7:

    yea, this guy kinda likes to freak out on everything...calling it a fireable offense is laugh out loud funny

  • I thought the biggest problem with the game yesterday was the officiating. The refs were simply horrible and at times weren't even paying attention. I felt this was the reason the Pacers struggled so much early on and then later the Bulls.

    As for Rose he needs to just stop shooting three's. I understand he want's to expand his game but he's shooting them at an embarrassing rate. The way he's bricking three's you might as well let Noah start taking them also.

  • Quick Note: When you think about it, playing Dunleavy more minutes really means you're prioritizing him over Brooks. That is if Derrick and Jimmy are both playing. Most of Jimmy's minutes have to remain at SG which means Rose can't slide over for Brooks at the point. I'd really like to see Brooks with at least 25 minutes per game. Honestly the way he's played offensively most nights for this team and you don't give him at least on average 25 minutes?

  • Okay, I know this question gets asked a lot during the NBA season, but did a group of tiny Space Jam aliens steal the Bulls' basketball abilities after the third quarter against the Pacers?

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