Jimmy Butler wakes up Bulls in time for win over shorthanded Wizards

Jimmy Butler wakes up Bulls in time for win over shorthanded Wizards

Taj Gibson put his head into his hands in frustration, as a simple pass to Doug McDermott went into the hands of the expensive season-ticket holders, another unforced turnover.

A couple possessions earlier, Robin Lopez and Jimmy Butler couldn’t connect on a simple no-pressure connection, giving the appearance the Bulls just weren’t take the night seriously.

That was the case for the better part of 24 minutes. The next 12 minutes of hard work or perhaps competence pushed the Bulls to a 106-95 win over the shorthanded Washington Wizards Saturday night.

Even though a game is 48 minutes, 12 efficient ones from the Bulls sufficed to give them their second straight victory, pushing their record to 6-4 before heading out west.

They held the Wizards to 24 percent shooting and gave up just 14 points after allowing nearly 60 in one half of basketball.

“That’s the one thing we need to keep building on,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought we fell out of our defense a little bit, but then we got it back.”

“The third quarter defense is what won us the game. We came out with a great mentality and got some stops.”

Butler, a viewer of this Bulls’ horror movie more times than he’d care to admit over the last year, games where his team had inexcusable losses against teams who had no business being in the same gym as them, changed the narrative for a night.

He was perfect from the field in the third, scoring 14 of his game-high 37 points to go along with nine assists and eight rebounds. For a period in the second half, he was buzzing on defense, getting deflections against Wizards guard Trey Burke on his way to three steals.

“If he has it going on, we find a way to put the ball in his hands,” Hoiberg said.

And when the fourth quarter saw the Bulls get a little bit tight, Butler re-entered at the 8:23 mark and a once 15-point lead was whittled to seven.

So Butler went to work with a three-point play, a steal and then another bucket in a one-minute span to help give the Bulls necessary breathing room.

“He is leading us,” said Dwyane Wade, who scored 14 on 5 of 17 shooting, as the Bulls shot 40 percent. “He’s doing what me and (Rajon) Rondo came for him to do, to really turn him into a premier player in this league. He really guides us.”

The Wizards were without John Wall and Bradley Beal, their starting backcourt, putting unknowns in their place named Sheldon McClellan and Tomas Satoransky, who barely had 10 minutes of playing experience between them, let alone anything else.

Satoransky helped the Wizards get off to a good start and helped Markieff Morris get off, as the Bulls couldn’t contain him for the first half. Morris scored 24 with 15 boards as Satoransky scored 12 with nine assists, with a team-high plus-13.

The stage was set for a Bulls letdown and they nearly lived up to it, in their last game before their six-game circus trip begins next week in Portland.

Marcin Gortat began moving Robin Lopez around and scoring inside, finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds on nine of 12 shooting.

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The Wizards actually led 56-46 with a minute to go in the first half before a quick Butler surge pulled the Bulls to within three, with him hitting a buzzer-beating jumper to give him 21.

Nikola Mirotic, someone who needed a game in the worst way, came up big with 17 points and 11 rebounds, hitting three triples and in the absence of Doug McDermott, who left in the third due to entering concussion protocol, will be needed even more for the foreseeable future.

“You can see the stress in his face,” Hoiberg said. “I told him to just go out there and have gun. He did that, he hit a big three for us.”

No matter if it was a team looked like it was playing three games in four nights, the Bulls looked like the bunch that gave away games it shouldn’t have with a sluggish performance last year, and barely shot over 40 percent for the night.

Without Wall and Beal the Wizards were missing 38 percent of their scoring, and considering the Wizards are 25th in that department, one would think it meant good news for the Bulls.

But they allowed Morris to run wild on them early, hitting six of his first seven shots before their bench gave up the lead.

The Bulls came out like a determined team in the third, outscoring the Wizards 28-14 and kept pace for the final 12 to give themselves some good enough vibes before heading out west for the next two weeks.

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr. grabbed some attention when he remarked that he was "perfect fit for today's NBA game" during an appearance on The Will Cain Show.

The interview went a long way towards showing off the uber-confident nature of Porter, who has consistently talked about being the best player in his class throughout the draft process. Porter also remarked that he was "an immediate impact guy," and that he "doesn't want it to take long to be one of the best players in the NBA."

His hubris has been intruiging considering the mystery surrounding the prospect.

During the interview Porter added that he would be open to doing more workouts for NBA front offices ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. The only workout he has completed so far was his pro day workout in Chicago, and multiple reports have cited that Porter did look good shooting, though he was in an isolated setting with no defenders.

The one thing Porter has not done much throughout the process is talk about his weaknesses, which is somewhat concerning seeing as he has much to improve on. The general consensus is that a healthy Porter can get buckets at will. But if he can improve his ball-handling, rebounding and passing skills, he will be much more than a go-to scorer. Tightening his ball-handling skills is likely the key, as the ability to grab the rebound and push in transition would be a huge boon for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The biggest question when it comes to Porter on the Bulls is can he fit with Lauri Markkanen? Despite receiving many favorable Kevin Durant and Paul George comparisons leading up to the draft, there is a rising sentiment that his best position in the NBA may be the power forward spot. It is not yet known if he has the foot speed to stay in front of quicker wings in today's NBA. But at six-feet-ten-inches, it is easy to imagine him having a huge advantage against slower power forwards rather than wings. While Markkanen is not currently built to be a full-time center, playing him at the five with Porter at the four would present Hoiberg with a potentially devastating closing lineup.

Versatility is the name of the game in today's league, and Michael Porter Jr. may be the key to unlocking the full potential of Hoiberg's pace-and-space attack. 

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls


Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

Just two years after being drafted in the second round, Paul Zipser told German media that he doesn’t see the Bulls wanting him next season.

The Bulls have until mid-July to pick up Zipser's option.

"I would not be surprised if they no longer want me.” Zipser said in German and translated via Google Translate

“Actually, I'm pretty sure I will not play in Chicago soon.”

Last month, Zipser had surgery on his fractured left foot, in his native country of Germany, which grew speculation the Bulls wouldn’t pick up his player option for next season. Zipser said the surgery "went perfectly."

Zipser showed some flashes of potential in his rookie season, averaging 5.5 per game and 2.8 rebounds in 44 games. But this past season, he played more games, but injuries derailed him from improving his overall production. He finished with four points and 2.4 rebounds in 54 games, including 12 starts.

Zipser explained that things changed from his first year to his second year.

“They were very varied," Zipser said. "The first year was just going very well. I fought my way into the team from the beginning and showed how I can help the team. The Bulls just needed someone like me. That's why it worked so well. We benefited from each other - that's why we were successful.”

“That was very different. It was not right from the beginning, and I was already struggling with my injury. It was not quite clear what it is. If you have pain in your foot, you automatically go down a bit with intensity. You just do not want to hurt yourself and be completely out. It was then difficult for me to keep my head in the sport - I did not manage that well. Nevertheless, the injury should not be an excuse.”

Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Zipser might not dress up in a Bulls uniform next year.