Some of the talk around the Bulls on Saturday was the importance of their game against the Washington Wizards. It was the Bulls’ last at the United Center until November 30 and the final one before their six-game circus trip that starts Tuesday in Portland.
“It is obviously a huge game for us,” Fred Hoiberg said after the shootaround.
That message clearly reached Jimmy Butler.
Facing a Washington team without stars the John Wall (rest) and Bradley Beal (right hamstring tightness), the Bulls beat the Wizards 106-95. Butler led the Bulls with 37 points while shooting 11 of 23 from the floor and making 14 of 14 free throws. He also had eight rebounds and nine assists, helping the Bulls get to 6-4 and win their second straight heading into the trip.
And the Bulls needed Butler’s best after a mediocre first half. Despite 21 first-half points from Butler the Bulls trailed 56-53 at the break. But Butler wouldn’t let his team lose, helping them stay close to Washington until the Bulls took control with a 28-14 third.
“We won. We did what we’re supposed to do down the stretch,” Butler said. “We didn’t start off the way we wanted to but we did all right in the end.”
Butler said his own play Saturday was just “decent.” Hoiberg and Butler’s teammates were a bit more outspoken.
“Jimmy was unbelievable tonight,” Hoiberg said.
“He’s leading us. He’s doing what me and (Rajon) Rondo came here for him to do, and that’s to really turn into a premier premier player in this league above just an all-star,” Dwyane Wade said. “He’s really done it this last week. He’s really been doing everything.”
As Wade said, Butler has been defending the opponent’s best player. He’s been passing, rebounding, scoring and doing whatever the Bulls need.
On Saturday, it was being aggressive and keeping the Bulls in the game during a slow first half. Butler said playing with that aggression is something Wade has been telling him to do, and it paid off.
“I don’t consider that carrying. I consider that making some shots, getting fouled, doing what they need me to do,” Butler said. “That’s be aggressive.”
Nikola Mirotic had 17 and 11 rebounds off the bench, Taj Gibson scored 13 points and Wade had 14. Robin Lopez also had a double-double, with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Not everything, however, was happy for the Bulls.
Doug McDermott, who missed the Nov. 2 game with a concussion, left with 11:39 left in the fourth when he landed hard on the floor after being fouled by Markieff Morris on a dunk attempt. The Bulls said McDermott was in the concussion protocol again.
“I haven’t seen Doug (after the game) but the first thing I noticed when I ran up on him after he got hit was he wasn’t there,” Gibson said. “I’ve had three concussions in my career and that’s one of the things people (don’t) understand. You hit that floor, that floor tends to smack you pretty hard too. So when I looked at his eyes when I ran up on him I didn’t like the signs I saw.
“I just told him take his time but hopefully he’ll be fine because we really need him.”
Morris was assessed a flagrant foul on the play.
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