Bulls

The Butler did it: Jimmy looks like an MVP contender in leading Bulls to comeback win over Raptors

The Butler did it: Jimmy looks like an MVP contender in leading Bulls to comeback win over Raptors

If ever Jimmy Butler needed to send a message regarding the rumors about the Bulls looking to see what they can get for him, it was a resounding one, a loud one.

Either that or the Bulls’ mantra against the Toronto Raptors is “hang around long enough for them to screw it up.”

Make no mistake, Butler put his tattoo on the game when he walked Kyle Lowry down for a step-back triple with 17.3 seconds left in overtime, giving the Bulls a five-point lead and putting the finishing touches on a 123-118 win at the United Center, their 10th straight win over their rivals from up north.

Make that another 40-point showing — 42 to be exact, with 10 rebounds and five assists — but also loudly showing the world he is the franchise player he believes himself to be, while muscling himself into true consideration for Most Valuable Player.

At worst, with wins and signature moments over Charlotte, Cleveland and now Toronto, Butler probably sealed Player of the Week honors by averaging 38 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists.

“I think so,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg when asked if Butler deserved MVP consideration.

“Just what he’s done for this team. This stretch he’s got going. Continues to add to his game. He’s playing with the ball in his hands a lot. He’s been phenomenal.”

If these numbers and this production continues, voters will have to take notice and put him in the same class as the presumed frontrunners, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

“I don’t know about all that,” Butler said. “Take that one step at a time. All that’s way down the road from here. We have to continue to win for that to ever be a question.”

He mastered the balance between aggression and facilitating, particularly in overtime after a 25-point second half, keeping his teammates involved.

Butler found a relatively streaking Doug McDermott cutting on the baseline while hanging in midair, with McDermott finishing with a two-handed dunk to give the Bulls their largest lead of the game at 116-111.

Butler was relentless on both ends, taking the punishment while driving to the basket and dishing it out while guarding Lowry on defense, surely leaving the man fatigued after 44 minutes and going to the line 20 times.

“He was out there guarding (DeMar) DeRozan for three quarters then Lowry, who leads the NBA in points in the fourth quarter,” Hoiberg said, as Lowry went 2-for-6 in the period.

“A lot of guys are putting up huge numbers, do it on one end and let somebody else guard the other team’s best player. Jimmy’s doing both for us. To expend that energy on the defensive end and continue to do what he does on offense says a lot about him.”

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Butler scored, to the tune of nine straight to tie the game at 99 in the fourth, an unexpected feat with the Raptors once leading 82-63 with 3:42 left in the third quarter.

“You can see it. He wants it,” Dwyane Wade said. “So many guys have talent. The mentality it takes, even if you’re having a bad game like Cleveland (when) he wasn’t shooting well, to still be able to do it in the clutch. That’s special. He’s putting himself in the category of special.”

When he didn’t score, he did ridiculous things like drawing triple teams and feeding Wade for a dunk to give the Bulls a 101-99 lead. Or when he missed a go-ahead triple, he tracked the miss to tip it left-handed to Nikola Mirotic for a corner three that set the United Center into a frenzy.

The Bulls’ comeback was on the back of Butler but also McDermott and Mirotic as Hoiberg has found increasing confidence in a floor-spreading group as a closing lineup, with McDermott scoring 17 and Mirotic 12.

McDermott rebounded from missing an open triple at the top of the key to nailing the very next one the next possession on a pass from Wade, giving the Bulls a 107-105 lead with 39.5 seconds left in regulation.

“They were huge, knocking down big shot after big shot,” Butler said. “I’m smiling because I’m confident, that’s what we need. When you miss your shot, you have to take your shot again.”

Shooting under 40 percent was offset by spirited play and 11 triples as the Bulls are finally hitting their share of outside shots — even with Butler going 10-for-25 and Wade going 6-for-19, they crawled back into the game when all seemed lost.

“It was huge for those guys to stay with it,” Hoiberg said. “The way we hung in there, found some fight after being stuck in the mud (in the first half). Played one possession at a time, and that’s what you have to do to climb your way back in it.”

A wild finish to regulation sent the game into overtime, after Wade missed a short jumper, followed by a Cristiano Felicio tipped miss, followed by DeRozan and Lowry missing shots in the paint before the buzzer sounded.

Lowry continued his understated dominance, recognizing every mismatch on the floor and exploiting it with nine of his game-high 12 assists in the first half, when the Raptors took a 16-point lead — making the Bulls look like they hadn’t had two days in between games.

Lowry and DeRozan took over the game in the ways that made the Raptors an Eastern Conference finalist last season. Lowry finished with 27 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Lowry has grown into a better facilitator while DeRozan has become a far more aggressive shot-taker and maker, perhaps a product of being an Olympian over the summer, finishing with a team-high 36 points and eight rebounds.

DeRozan and Butler went at it all night, with the two gold medalists showing how their games benefitted from the summer experience.

But the Bulls’ mastery over the Raptors continued, and the Raptors need point to one culprit for their misery, as the Butler did it — again.

Bulls' Coby White has 7th best odds to win 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year

Bulls' Coby White has 7th best odds to win 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year

The 2019 NBA Draft has finally come and gone, and we now have a much better idea of how the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year race will pan out.

Of course, Zion Williamson has been the frontrunner to win ROY in most sports books before the draft even happens, and not much has changed since then at the top, with Williamson listed as a -450 favorite to win the award via Caesars. But when perusing through the rest of the top ROY odds, it is interesting where the split comes in terms of Caesar’s confidence in each first-year talent.

The top five in the odds were pretty much chalk, with the top five draft picks having the best odds in order, besides No. 5 overall pick Darius Garland finishing ahead of No. 4 overall pick De’Andre Hunter. Garland’s +1000 odds are likely the result of the general expectation that he and incumbent point guard Collin Sexton will be the driving forces of the Cavaliers’ offense.

Meanwhile, Hunter is sure to serve in more of a supporting role as a wing opposite Cam Reddish (+2500 odds) and 2018 NBA ROY runner up Trae Young, who possess much more in terms of ball handling and shot-creating ability. Speaking of ball handling and shot-creating ability, Bulls No. 7 overall pick Coby White comes in tied for 7th with +3000 odds to come away with the ROY award. 

White has the same odds as No. 8 pick Jaxson Hayes, and only slightly better odds than No. 9 pick Rui Hachimura and No. 15 pick Sekou Doumbouya. Historically, the ROY award goes to whichever first-year player has the most productive season in terms of raw numbers. White is expected to compete for the starting point guard job with Kris Dunn and whatever veterans the Bulls front office brings in.

While it is true that Coby White is not guaranteed a starring role in Chicago, the average-to-below-average guard play that the organization has received over the years would seem to indicate that the speedy first-year guard will be a fixture in the rotation all season long. 

When bettors first glance at White’s +3000 odds, they make look at it as a normal line and reasonably stay away from the longshot. But if you--like Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson--believe that White is an extremely coachable talent who will help get the entire Bulls team to commit to a more up-tempo style, then rolling with White’s odds in the ROY race is a no-brainer.

Waiting to see how free agency shakes out would be a prudent move on the part of bettors, but have confidence in White, who figures to be a crucial part of the rotation whether or not the Bulls go with a veteran starter or the incumbent, Kris Dunn, in the lead guard spot. 

Bulls Talk Podcast: Coby White and Daniel Gafford join Mark Schanowski

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Coby White and Daniel Gafford join Mark Schanowski

Mark Schanowski is joined by Bulls top draft picks Coby White and Daniel Gafford after they were introduced to the media Monday at the Advocate Center.

0:50        White on how he thinks he can help the Bulls

1:25        White on his meeting with Jim Boylen

2:00        White on joining a very young roster

2:30        White on the influence of his father

3:33        White on the viral video of him reacting to Cam Johnson being drafted

4:50        White on his teammate first personality

5:38        White on looking forward to playing w Gafford

6:42        Gafford on his skill set

7:15        Gafford on watching the NBA when he can

7:40        Gafford on evolving big man role

8:47        Gafford on if he can do more offensively

9:20        Gafford on Bobby Portis, and some of their similarities

10:30     Gafford on some of his highlights from Arkansas

11:10     Gafford on Jim Boylen

11:30     Gafford on pick n roll game

12:00     Gafford on Coby White

12:40     Gafford on falling to the 2nd round, how getting drafted by the Bulls worked out

13:22     Gafford on throwing out 1st pitch at an upcoming Sox game

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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