Jimmy Butler plays hero in carrying Bulls over the hapless Nets
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
For the first time since Halloween night, Fred Hoiberg entered a game with a full roster intact.
No concussions, no updates on bone chips, no suspensions because of towels tossed at coaches.
It should have been a no-excuse night.
But these are the Bulls, and schizophrenic performances from game-to-game are just a way of life.
Thanks to a Jimmy Butler jumper at the final horn, the Bulls overcame a hapless Brooklyn team in the final minutes, edging them out, 101-99, at the United Center on Wednesday night.
A win? Yes.
A reason to start believing in this team? Define believe.
The only definite about this team is they have mastered the art of inconsistency. They should just be thankful that they ran into a Nets team that has now lost 12 straight on the road and doesn’t understand the concept of finishing out a seven-point lead with 2:34 left in the game.
Butler tying a season-high 40 points was a big reason why.
First Butler fixed his cape and played hero with 27 seconds left, hitting a mid-range jumper that put the Bulls up 99-97, and then after Brook Lopez took it out on twin Robin Lopez with a nasty dunk with 12 seconds left, it was isolation time for Butler once again.
A dribble here, a juke there, and his game-winning jumper was pure, giving the Bulls (16-16) their second straight win. Not bad for a guy who looked like he could have an early exit after his right ankle buckled with just under five minutes left in the game and he had to be helped to the bench.
“He was phenomenal obviously,’’ Hoiberg said of his two-time All-Star. “He just put the team on his shoulders. We needed every one of them. He made the right play time and time again. Obviously everybody was holding their breath when he went down. It looked serious in a big way.
“He made them when it mattered most down the stretch. The great players do.’’
So what was the set that Hoiberg called for Butler to deliver like that?
“Get the hell out of his way and let him go to work,’’ Hoiberg replied.
A set that Butler wouldn’t mind being a permanent fixture in the playbook.
“I like that play, I like that play,’’ Butler insisted. “The way the game was going I guess I had the hot hand. So coach, [my teammates] were like make something happen, so in the end I did just that.’’
That doesn’t mean Hoiberg was thrilled with how most of the early part of the game went down.
“[Brooklyn] came out with fire, we didn’t,’’ Hoiberg said. “It’s disappointing to do that in your own building. You can’t go through the motions and expect the other team to lay down. It’s another learning experience for us, and we’ve got to get better.’’
What was obviously still a work in progress now that the Bulls have all their working pieces is how they finish games? Or more specifically, who finishes games.
In the Monday win over Indiana, the offense went through Dwyane Wade, while Michael Carter-Williams and Butler provided the perimeter defense. That left Rajon Rondo as the odd-man out, sitting out the quarter.
Against Brooklyn (8-23), Rondo was back in the mix, while Wade was battling a migraine headache that hindered him most of the second half.
“You can go back to our first meeting before we opened training camp and that’s all we talked about was sacrifice and togetherness and not caring who gets the credit as long as you win the game,’’ Hoiberg said.