Jimmy Butler drops record 40 points in second half to fuel Bulls comeback


Jimmy Butler drops record 40 points in second half to fuel Bulls comeback

By Jessica Patton

TORONTO — It was Jimmy Butler time Sunday in Toronto.

What the Bulls reserves lacked, Butler made up for in a 115-113 comeback win against the Toronto Raptors, pushing the Bulls' winning streak to a season-high four games.

Butler was held almost scoreless in the first quarter, sitting at two points when he took a DeMarre Carroll elbow to a face. When he returned in the third with a lacerated lip, he was a new man, scoring 40 points in the second half and finishing with 42 on the night.

The 40-point second half eclipsed Michael Jordan’s franchise record of 39.

“He just made play after play,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said, shaking his head in disbelief after the win. “He was unbelievable with the ball in his hands; hitting fade away shots, the last three, getting himself to the free-throw line.

“Just a really, really good individual performance.”

[MORE BULLS: Derrick Rose out Sunday, scheduled for MRI on hamstring]

Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol added 17 points and 19 points, respectively. Gasol also had 13 rebounds and six assists.

“We’re on the right path,” Gasol said when asked if the win meant the Bulls were turning a corner on the season. “We’re not going to throw fireworks, we haven’t won a championship or gotten close yet, but we’re on the right path, now we’re competing.

“Since the Oklahoma City game, we’re competing every night and we’re giving ourselves a chance every night, and that’s we need to continue to do in order for us to have a chance at the end of the year.”

It looked to be all Raptors as they pulled away after an even first quarter to lead 60-48 at half, but much like when the two teams met last Monday in Chicago, the Bulls came back in the fourth to get the win.

It was the Bulls seventh consecutive win against the Raptors. The bench scored 51 points in a 104-74 win over the Raptors last Monday, but they failed to repeat those numbers this time, scoring only 20.

The team had been struggling to close out games after starting off hot, something they had been working on the past month. With the win against the Raptors and a new win-streak cemented, the Bulls seem to be on the right page going into the New Year.

“It was a very important week for us,” Hoiberg explained. “The first thing was to protect our home court. We had three good wins. That Indiana game wasn’t looking too good there at the end, we found a way to pull that one out, and the same thing with today’s game.”

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DeMar DeRozan finished with 24 for the Raptors, while Luis Scola had himself a night, matching his season high with 22 points.

While the offense was there for the Raptors, it was the lack of defense in the final minutes that cost them their second loss to the Bulls in a week.

“We can’t give up 34 points in the fourth quarter,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “You have to put your foot down, put your foot on their neck and close it out.

“I thought we had control up to that point, but we just didn’t put our stamp on it in the fourth quarter defensively.”

The Bulls were without starting point guard Derrick Rose, who sat out his third straight game due to a hamstring issue. He is scheduled for an MRI on Monday back in Chicago.

“We have to go back home for a couple (games) and hopefully build off this, play well and get our confidence up and hopefully get a couple of guys healthy,” Hoiberg said. “That would help us right now.”

Next up for the Bulls is a game against the division-rival Milwaukee Bucks back at home Tuesday.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls


Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.