The Bulls don’t deserve Jimmy Butler. I’m tempted to replace every word of this game recap with “Jimmy Butler”, as it would be a most appropriate retelling of a game in which Jimmy did literally everything. The Bulls hadn’t beaten the Hornets in over a calendar year, and the days leading up to this contest were turbulent to say the least. Rajon Rondo is effectively sitting in the corner wearing a dunce cap, banished from the rotation (possibly for good) after a series of horrendous starts. Dwyane Wade was ruled out hours before tipoff with knee swelling. Chicago took the floor on Monday night severely lacking in talent, confidence, and stability.
But they were not lacking in Jimmy, and that’s all they needed–prevailing 118-111 over the pesky Hornets.
The man of the hour knocked down 4 of his first 5 shots as the Bulls booked a solid opening frame–leading 25-23 after one quarter. Unfortunately, the Hornets weren’t so kind after Jimmy checked out, and the youthful bench unit of Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and Cristiano Felicio surrendered a 13-to-5 run in just four minutes. Jimmy checked back in, and things were under control again. Funny how that works, eh? Valentine also chipped in early and often, knocking down 3 three pointers in his opening stint to greatly aid the Bulls’ anemic floor spacing. On the backs of those two guys, the Bulls went into the locker room holding onto a trim 58-57 lead.
Then 2nd half rolled around and Jimmy happened. Over the last 24 minutes, he scored 32 points, made 9 of his 13 shot attempts, and carried a bunch of struggling young Bulls players to a win almost solely by himself. He got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it– drives to the rim, mid range pull ups, even a four point play. For Charlotte, Kemba Walker was brilliant, he finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists. But for every time Walker came down the floor and inevitably spun around his man, Jimmy had an answer. Unfortunately, the 3rd quarter also saw the Bulls lose Valentine to an ankle sprain after he came down on Nicolas Batum’s foot on a fast break layup attempt. After a hairy Bulls stint to open the 4th quarter, Jimmy re-entered the game with 6 minutes left and the Bulls down 4. Jimmy looked Steve Clifford into the depths of his soul and snarled “now, you will die”.
That last part may or may not have actually happened, but regardless, Jimmy got his message across with his play. In the last 4:00 of game time, he scored 17 points. Let’s rundown each Bulls possession from then on, in order:
Jimmy And-1 layup
Jimmy Technical free throw, then rebounded his own miss for a layup
MCW floater (boo!)
Jimmy crossover and layup over Spencer Hawes
Jimmy pull-up 20 footer over Batum
Jimmy pull-up 20 footer over Batum
The Hornets kept themselves in the game with some precise passing and Kemba Walker efficiency, but Taj Gibson stuffed Spencer Hawes at the basket with a minute left, Jimmy stuck the dagger in Batum’s eye, and that was the game. A few free throws later, and the 30th pick of the 2011 NBA draft had rounded out the best game of his career: 52 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals in 38 minutes. On a night where the Bulls had every reason to lose, Jimmy simply would not let the Bulls lose. He was magnificent in a way we haven’t seen from a Bulls player in several years, and you shudder to think what the state of Chicago basketball would be without his unlikely emergence.
Again, the Bulls don’t deserve Jimmy Butler.
Jim- er, the Bulls, rather, will be hitting the road to do battle against Lebron James and the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. Bless their souls.