Bulls

Jimmy Butler caps off monster night with buzzer-beater to give Bulls win over Nets

Jimmy Butler caps off monster night with buzzer-beater to give Bulls win over Nets

Apparently it wasn’t too much for the Bulls to put everything on Jimmy Butler’s shoulders.

Walking down Bojan Bogdanovic, he got to the spot he wanted, took the shot he wanted and got the result he desired at the buzzer, hitting a jumper to give the Bulls a 101-99 win over the woeful Brooklyn Nets.

It took 40 points from Butler, 27 in the second half when the game was slipping away from the Bulls against a team they had no business trailing to, including the game-winner to get the Bulls back to .500.

Being mobbed by his teammates as the United Center went into delirium, Butler released emotion that seemed more out of frustration that it took so much to beat a team that isn’t on par with the Bulls talent-wise.

“I think we desperately need every win, not just this one,” said Butler, who added 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals in 38 minutes. “But the way the game was going, I guess I had the hot hand, and coach and players said, ‘Hey, make something happen.’ At the end, I did just that.”

He nailed a go-ahead jumper with 33.7 seconds left, but Brook Lopez dunked it over his brother to tie the game again, setting the stage for Butler to work his magic one more time.

“I said, ‘Get the hell out of his way and let him go to work,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, in a statement Butler wouldn’t mind being framed for future references—as in every game.

A Butler takeover didn’t look likely for most of the night, especially after turning his right ankle on a jumper that caused him to writhe in pain on his way to the bench before returning moments later.

As the Bulls trailed 97-90 with three minutes left, Butler put on his Superman cape and went to work, hitting a triple and then two free throws to make it a manageable deficit with 1:50 left.

Michael Carter-Williams forced a turnover and scored on a layup to tie the game at 97 with 1:22 left, mostly due to the defensive attention paid to Butler

“Be aggressive. Take the shots that the defense gives to you and continue to be you,” Butler said. “When you can’t shoot it, you pass it to the open guy. I pride myself on that too. We learn from it, and we’ll be better.”

With no Dwyane Wade (16 points in 22 minutes) after early in the second half due to migraines, it was solely on Butler to make most of the plays down the stretch, and the Nets kept the Bulls on their heels for nearly the entire night, jumping out to a 9-0 lead, leading to groans all across the United Center.

“They came out and were the aggressors. They took it right to us,” Hoiberg said. “Give them credit, they came out of the gate with fire. It was disappointing to come out in our own building like that.

“We dug ourselves a hole and found some fire and passion in the last four or five minutes. That’s the message, we have to play like that from the opening tip.”

The Nets are, if nothing else, a team that plays hard and will launch threes mercilessly as they have nothing to lose and no expectations on a nightly basis, stripping down their entire operation to start over, figure out what works with what players under a new coach and general manager.

The Bulls have familiar players and a second-year coach in Hoiberg, but still appear no more closer to finding out who they are or what works on a nightly basis—hence the up and down performances.

Brook Lopez dominated the matchup with his brother, scoring 33 with four assists and three rebounds, hitting five 3-pointers that compromised the Bulls’ defense all night.

The Nets made 13 of them, launching from all angles and forced 18 turnovers from the Bulls. Sean Kilpatrick, starting in place of the injured Jeremy Lin, took advantage of increased minutes, scoring 18 with six assists and Randy Foye scored 11 off the bench.

The Bulls could find no such resourcefulness before Butler saved them. Excluding Butler’s 14 for 29 showing, the Bulls shot 35.5 percent and 39.8 overall.

“We can’t go through the motions and expect another team to lay down,” Hoiberg said. “They’re coming out, they’re fighting, they’re coming off a huge win against Charlotte. They had Golden State down 18.”

During one third-quarter stretch, the Bulls had four traveling violations in five possessions—which was followed by the Nets taking a 73-66 lead on a Justin Hamilton triple with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

[SHOP: Buy a Jimmy Butler jersey here!]

The Bulls put together a few decent minutes, forcing some turnovers with pressure from Michael Carter-Williams, 14 straight points from Butler and tied the game at 76 before Foye’s layup gave the Nets a two-point lead to start the fourth.

The Bulls’ first half rivaled their 48-minute showing against the Pacers two nights ago for ugliest showing, as they couldn’t hit a shot and space was impossible to find.

It made life almost miserable for Butler as 15 of his shots came in the first half and he only converted on five of them before the half.

Add to the tough luck misses the Bulls had inside in addition to their customary struggles from the outside, the Nets gained more confidence as the first half went on.

But confidence can only take you so far, as you need a frontline player to take you home. Luckily for the Bulls, they had the frontline player and frontline play, just in the nick of time.

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

lauri.jpg
USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

dw.jpg
USA TODAY

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.