With a day to let the adrenaline of a historic 24 minutes wear off, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg went to look back at the film of Jimmy Butler’s 40-point second half that carried the Bulls to victory against the Toronto Raptors.
Usually, one finds unique performances like that to be more special upon reflection, and this was no different.
“You know what, it was a really special performance,” Hoiberg said. “The left-handed runner off the glass, the threes that he hit including that last one that put us up by one, the crazy step-backs, getting himself to the free-throw line, drawing contact, he did a little bit of everything.”
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That applies even for the league office. On Butler’s hotly-contested corner 3-pointer that gave the Bulls a 112-111 lead, the NBA determined in its two-minute report that Butler was fouled by Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll, which would’ve given Butler an opportunity for a four-point play and a chance to distance himself from Michael Jordan’s previous scoring record for a half by one more point.
Nevertheless, Hoiberg found himself in a position to abandon whatever his game plan was in the second half once he saw Butler catch fire. Butler was annoyed about an elbow he caught in the mouth in the second quarter from Carroll on a layup that drew blood, and used the extra motivation to get himself going.
“After he got hit in the lip that hit his switch, that hit a nerve with him,” said guard E’Twaun Moore, who played big minutes against Raptors guard Kyle Lowry down the stretch and had a tip-in to tie the game at 109 with 58 seconds left. “He was like, ‘C’mon man, let’s go out and we’ve gotta go out here and fight.’ That’s all he kept saying, and then he came out in the second half and showed it.’’
It left Hoiberg in a spot where he had to feature Butler offensively, and Butler scored on the first three possessions, even the last one where the team “screwed it up”.
“After that, we just made the decision to put the ball in his hands and run ball screens for him in the middle of the floor,” Hoiberg said. “And he made the right play. He made a nice little pass to Pau (Gasol) and got him an easy little shot in the line. It was just about putting the ball in his hands and having the two best players on the floor.”
Hoiberg should be credited for finding the delicate balance of riding the hot hand—a player who got more and more demonstrative as the game went on—but also keeping the other players involved.
Butler scored 40, but the rest of the Bulls combined for 27 as the Bulls came back from a 15-point deficit.
“I think the unique thing about this team is we've got a lot of guys that can heat up. Some nights it's going to be Pau. Some nights it's going to be Derrick and it has been Derrick, especially down the stretch,” Hoiberg said. “I think we've had some growth in that area with this team. I think that's why our offensive numbers have been a lot better.”
Sometimes, the game is very simple.