Jimmy Butler Takes Over, Bulls Win a Fun One in Phoenix


Wednesday night was another example of why Jimmy Butler “bet on himself” to become an elite player and earn a max contract. Butler took over late and the Chicago Bulls improved to 8-3 on the season.

The Chicago Bulls were Jimmy Butler’s team on Wednesday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Butler scored 14 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter and the Bulls improved to 8-3 with a 103-97 victory over a Suns team that had won three straight coming into Wednesday’s meeting with the Bulls. Butler already had a solid performance through three quarters, but when the game got tight, the league’s most improved player of a year ago took over.

In the final 2:46 of the fourth quarter, Butler scored nine of the Bulls’ 11 points to finish off the Suns.

“He [Butler] was phenomenal; he just took the game over,” Fred Hoiberg said after the game. “Offense, defense. I tried to take him out, he wouldn’t let me. He did it all for us in the fourth. It was almost like his energy level went up in that fourth quarter and that’s what big time performers do. They step up when you need it most.”

After Aaron Brooks headed to the locker room with an apparent hamstring issue in the final frame, along with a mini-throwback Kirk Hinrich coming to end thanks to a minute restriction (and then starting again in the fourth), the Bulls needed a boost.

“It just shows how far I’ve come and how I worked on my game to be able to score the ball late and for my teammates to know my ability to score,” Butler said. “That’s the utmost respect coming from them to me and me returning the favor because I’m showing I can put the ball in the basket.”

Wednesday wasn’t the usual array of points in the paint and points at the free throw line for Butler. 13 of his 32 points did come either in the paint or at the charity stripe. But, the big takeaway was Butler’s crunch-time shooting.

Whether it was an open look or a different contested shot like the one below, Butler took his game to another level in the second half.

Butler shot 8-of-16 from the field (outside of the painted area) for 19 points on the night.

His biggest shot of the night came with 1:08 left in the game and the Bulls up 99-92. Eric Bledsoe had just scored to cut the Bull lead to 96-92. There wasn’t any doubt that Butler was going to take the next shot for the Bulls.

He rose from the right corner over the returning Markieff Morris from beyond the three-point line and buried his only shot attempt from the corner all evening to give the Bulls a 99-92 lead with 1:08 left.

In the words of Wayne Larrivee, “And there is your dagger!”

Bulls notables from the 103-97 win:

  • The 2006 version of Kirk Hinrich arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday night and it was rather hilarious … and needed for the Bulls. Hinrich made six of his seven shot attempts for 14 points and had six assists on the night in 23:32 of game action.
    • “I just try to stay ready,” Hinrich said. “I wasn’t sure (about returning in the 4th). I kind of thought I was done, but you never know what can happen; Derrick was already down, so we’re shorthanded so everybody just has to stay ready.”
  • The main reason why Hinrich had to return was because Aaron Brooks suffered a hamstring strain in the second half. There’s been no word on if Brooks will be ready to go for Friday night in Oakland against the unbeaten Golden State Warriors.
  • Nikola Mirotic‘s struggles continued on Wednesday night. The second-year man from Montenegro shot just 4-of-12 from the field for 10 points. Since Nov. 5, Mirotic is shooting 6-for-25 from three-point range. Mirotic’s shooting woes are one of the reasons Taj Gibson played a shade under 27 minutes on Wednesday and Mirotic didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter.

Final Thoughts:

The Chicago Bulls are 8-3 and it makes absolutely zero sense as to how they’ve won eight of their first 11 games. Believe it or not, Hoiberg’s 8-3 mark in his first season so far is better than Tom Thibodeau’s 7-4 mark at the 11-game point in his rookie season as Bulls head coach.

But, the Bulls have a long way to go if they’re going to come near that 62-win mark Thibodeau’s team reached in the 2010-11 season.

As good and bad as the Bulls have looked this season so far, they’re winning games. They’re plenty to be concerned about, but at the end of the day, wins are wins. At any level of sports, you don’t complain about a win. You take it and move on to the next one.

That next team is the 12-0 Golden State Warriors. The Bulls were one of just two teams (San Antonio) to beat the defending champions at Oracle Arena last season.

I wouldn’t bank on the Bulls doing it again this time around (partly because Stephen Curry is literally a walking ball of flames right now), but it’s the Bulls. They beat teams they’re not supposed to sometimes and it’s fun, but doesn’t make a lick of sense either.

Next: What's Going On With Nikola Mirotic?

The Bulls-Warriors meeting is slated for the second game in ESPN’s Friday doubleheader. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 PM CT.