Jimmy Butler goes off for 22/6/8 as Bulls upset Clippers to open Circus Trip

Jimmy Butler goes off for 22/6/8 as Bulls upset Clippers to open Circus Trip

Jimmy Butler had another outstanding night for the Bulls as they overcame the absence of Derrick Rose (and Pau Gasol) and a 14-point deficit late in the second quarter to upset the Clippers 105-89 in the first game of the team’s annual Circus Trip out west.

Jimmy Butler saves the day

It was once again the Jimmy Butler show for the Bulls, as he posted team-highs of 22 points and 8 assists while also contributing six rebounds and a pair of steals. He struggled a bit from the field, hitting only 6/17 shot attempts (1/4 on 3’s), but he made up for it by getting to the free throw line 10 times, making nine of them.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers noticed that he was watching the Jimmy Butler show as well – in the game’s final minutes, when the Clips needed points quickly, Doc had Jamal Crawford and J.J.Redick on the floor for their shooting. But he had to pull Redick and replace him with Matt Barnes down the stretch because Butler was just abusing J.J. or Jamal in the low post on offense.

bullsville jimmy butler

Nobody should be surprised when they see Jimmy Butler on the Eastern Conference All-Star roster as he pushed his season averages to 21.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Right now he’s a lock for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, and he’s still playing defense at an All-NBA level.

He’s getting to the free throw line at an incredible rate so far, shooting an average of eight a night. He’s at 37% on 3-point attempts and shooting three a game on average. If he keeps this up, you could easily see the name Jimmy Butler next to the “SG” on the All-NBA Third Team. He’s been that good, folks.

Nikola Mirotic again plays well when he plays

With Gasol sitting out the game with a slight calf strain (Thibodeau says Pau is day-to-day), we all knew Nikola Mirotic was finally going to get some minutes as the team’s third big man – and the Montenegrin did not disappoint.

nikola mirotic bullsville

Niko drilled a 3 on his first shot attempt, he had a couple of very nice passes off the dribble, and he also had a couple of outstanding moves to the basket which he finished with layups. He still only played 18 minutes as Taj played 41 and Noah 36, but he gave the Bulls 12 points on 5/10 shooting while also grabbing 7 rebounds. And the Bulls needed those rebounds as Taj had another Eddy Curry night on the boards, grabbing only four defensive rebounds in his 41 minutes.

Niko still struggles some on defensive rotations, but the Clipper announcers noticed what all the intelligent Bulls fans have seen – Niko has mad talent on the offensive end of the floor.

The entire starting lineup played well

Joakim Noah contined to look better by the night as he rounds into shape – tonight he gave the team 11 points, 16 rebounds and 6 assists. Jo is averaging 10.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists over his last five games, and he is getting back to his active self as his knee keeps getting better.

Gibson his 9/13 shots for 20 points starting in Gasol’s place, and he actually found it within himself to pass the ball tonight as he had six assists (he only had 12 assists total in his first nine games). Unfortunately he continued his apathetic work on the defensive glass, but at least his continued offensive efficiency is keeping his trade value pretty high.

Dunleavy hit 6/10 shots (4/7 3’s) and had the most quiet 19 points I have seen in a long time. MDJ is now at 40.4% from behind the arc, shooting more than five a game on average. If he can keep draining 3’s at that rate and playing his usual smart game, he will be invaluable as the season goes on.

Even the much-maligned Kirk Hinrich had a very nice game, hitting 4/6 three-pointers to score 14 points on 12 shots while adding five assists and three steals. He also did an outstanding job of helping to keep Chris Paul in check as the Clips’ PG only had 12 points (5/11 FG) and 7 assists even though he played over 37 minutes.

The game looked like it was over early

Even though the Bulls played good defense early and actually led by three after the first 12:00, the Clips slowly built the lead over the course of the second quarter, going up 46-32 on Paul’s 20-footer with 3:44 left. But the Bulls clamped down on defense, allowing only four more points the rest of the half while hitting six of nine from the field to cut the lead to 50-48 at intermission.

The Bulls came out of the locker room looking like a different team, and a pair of Hinrich 3’s with a 20-footer from Noah in the middle gave the team a 56-53 lead. They would never trail again, outscoring the home team 31-14 in the third quarter as part of a 49-18 run over a 16:53 stretch.

The biggest difference – in addition to the defense – was the 3-point shooting. After a 1/9 2nd quarter led to a 4/15 first half, the Bulls hit 6/11 from the behind the arc in the second half, almost entirely on wide-open looks as the ball movement was as good as I’ve seen them show all season.

16 assists on 22 second-half field goals shows exactly how outstanding the ball movement was after halftime.

Hopefully the Bulls will continue to sit Rose and Gasol on the Circus Trip until they lose a game. I would hope that Mirotic and McDermott get more than the 18 and 10 minutes of playing time they got tonight if that’s the case – but at least the Bulls don’t play again until Thursday night in Sacramento, so the big minutes tonight (Butler 45, Gibson 41, Noah 36) shouldn’t be a problem going forward.

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  • Seems like a tall order for Jimmy. Harden and Thompson are likely locks for first and second team (in whatever order). It will be interesting to see how Kobe and Wade are treated if they play the entire season, probably not that likely. Then Butler has to beat out the new young guns, Beal, DeRozan, I must be missing someone.

    The difference in Butler's game from last season to this is almost unbelieveable, hopefully he can keep it up, and doesn't regress to the mean. I guess that he really was injured more than anyone knew last season, which is why he looked so heavy legged and played so slow and below the rim. It is amazing what a few lbs and better health can do. I'm still not sure that makes him a sure fire max contract guy, at least if by max contract you mean Lebron, Durant, or Anthony Davis.

    Yes, it was a pleasant surprise to see Taj pick up 6 assists, even if he did let Mirotic out rebound him again in less than half the time on the court. The Clipper announcers sure did go nuts over Mirotic. It was great to see him get a few more minutes and make a good showing of it. He does seem to take a long time and need a lot of space to wind up his 3 pt shot. It will be interesting to see is he can be a consistent and deadly weapon from there in the NBA. The other thing that I liked, even though he got some ticky tacky fouls is that he wasn't afraid to mix it up physically with several of the Clippers, who can be a quite chippy bunch.

  • Butler will have to keep scoring 21 a game to make 3rd Team, like you said I don't see him beating out Harden or Klay. But if he outscores Beal and DeRozan and whoever we are forgetting, IMHO his defense will push him up to 3rd Team (as long as the Bulls stay up at the top of the standings, of course).

    I think he's a max guy next summer because the Salary Cap is going up so much in 2016 - let's say it goes up 15%, then you've got Butler at 15% less than the max, and I don't see how a 20 ppg scorer who plays All-NBA level defense isn't worth that.

    I think Taj only got 6 assists because the ball was moving so quickly on the outside, I don't remember him getting any assists from passing out of the low post (though I could be wrong).

    I had the Clips' announcers too, and they sure did love them some Niko last night. I don't think his slow release will hurt him because any time a big man gets up on him, he blows right by them off the dribble. I am so excited about how good he is going to be, any time he gets minutes he looks better and better. The way Pau has taken Mirotic under his wing, hopefully he'll keep taking nights off so his protegee' can get the minutes he deserves.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Interesting, maybe Pau took the night off on purpose to lift Mirotic's spirits.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yeah who knows, maybe Pau told GarPaxDorf that since they couldn't match the Lakers/Knicks cash offers because they needed the rest of their cap space to sign Mirotic, he was only going to play 60-65 games and Mirotic would cover the rest of his minutes?

    Pau's a smart guy, he had to know coming in that left to his own vices, Thibs would try to play him 40 minutes a night for 82 games.

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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