Averaging 31 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds in the last four games, Jimmy Butler would look to continue to dominate on this Thursday night against the Isaiah Thomas-led Boston Celtics.
While a very respectful performance from Butler, with 19 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds, it would be Pau Gasol coming up big for the Bulls, as he put up 17 points, 18 rebounds, 4 assists and a block, giving Chicago the 101-92 win and a 22-12 record.
While now seemingly a better team than the Celtics — in the standings and in fire power– the metrics so far have said otherwise. With an identical 101 Offensive Rating, and a whole point ahead in the Defensive Rating compared to the Bulls, Brad Stevens has created a cast of characters that has been able to stay afloat above the bottom feeders of the East.
Unlike the Bulls, however, the Celtics haven’t been able to find a closer/clutch star on their roster. 0-4 in games decided by three points or less thus far this season, the necessary step to reach championship level contention is clearly laid out for Boston; however someone –or multiple players– must step up to take over when needed and grab the win reliably when the clock is against them.
Tonight, this did not happen for Boston, as they finished a ghastly 20% from the three point line on 25 shots, and seven Celtics finished with a negative +/-.
The first half began with a record-matching moment, as a Jimmy Butler steal early in the first quarter tied Scottie Pippen’s streak of 42 straight games with a steal. Despite the activeness of the perimeter defense, the Bulls would struggle early protecting the paint, allowing the Celtics to stay in the game despite their 38% field goal shooting in the first six minutes of play.
Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder would finish off the first quarter strong, combining for 17 as they gave the Celtics a 27-21 lead heading into the second. Jimmy Butler would have a surprisingly slow start, as double teams during his penetration left him with a goose egg in the scoring category and two turnovers.
While the Celtics and the Bulls currently belong in the top 10 in the league in pace, uncharacteristically careless turnovers and gucked-up ball movement from both teams early in the second quarter denied any possibility of moving the needle either way. At one point leading the game 41-31, the Celtics offense would stutter just long enough mid quarter for a pair of Mirotic three’s and a Jimmy Butler three-point-play to bring the Bulls back to a tie game minutes before the end of the half.
Finishing the half with eight of their nine turnovers in the last 12 minutes, the Celtics would shoot themselves in the foot and allow a Derrick Rose vintage jump hook to give them a deficit, 48-47, heading to the second half. Butler would have one of the quieter halves in his recent hot stretch, with only five points on 1-of-7 shooting.
FIRST HALF NOTE: TNT commentator Marv Albert, seeing Bobby Portis come in midway through the first quarter, would go on to call him “the good looking rookie.” I’m sure he would be flattered.
Despite a quick driving Isaiah Thomas layup to begin the second half, the Bulls defense would successfully shut down the Celtics back-court, with an 11-2 run sparking the Bulls for their first double digit lead of the game. Thomas and Turner for the Celtics would finish 9-of-27 from the field.
Similar with the Pistons game last night, the Celtics would under perform their fast starts in the first half with a sluggish second half, with a 19-33 fourth quarter in the Pistons game being followed up with a 26-16 third quarter dud against the Bulls.
Dipping into 35% field goal shooting proved to be the Achilles heel yet again for the Boston Celtics, as fundamental defense and timely offense gave the Bulls their 16th win at home and their sixth straight overall. Despite not shooting a free throw, Derrick Rose would have 18 points along with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
The next game for the Bulls will be Saturday at 4 PM CT, as they face the Atlanta Hawks (22-15) and will try to extend their win streak to seven.
FUNNY TID BIT: Derrick Rose would exit the game with about four minutes left in the third. Quickly, after draping his warm up shirt on, Rose would wander on over to the locker room. Just like that, every single camera in the arena focused on Rose as if he just got injured, even going as far as showing him opening and closing the door to the locker room in the span of two minutes. Rose would be fine, entering the game in the fourth healthy, and probably with an empty bladder. SMH TNT.