In Case There Was Any Doubt, the Bulls are Jimmy Butler’s Team


The Chicago Bulls can hope that Derrick Rose makes this “1-2 punch” thing work with Jimmy Butler. But, until he does — if he ever does — the Bulls are driven by Jimmy Butler.

Late in the Chicago Bulls‘ loss on Wednesday night to the Boston Celtics, the Comcast SportsNet Chicago play-by-play booth of Neil Funk and Stacey King mentioned the production put out by the Bulls in another poor performance during the fourth quarter.

Funk mentioned that Jimmy Butler — who scored a career-high 36 points against Boston on Wednesday — was 5-for-5 shooting in the fourth quarter with just under 40 seconds left in the game and the Bulls trailing by six points.

The next stats mentioned by Funk weren’t as encouraging as the previous ones about Butler.

“The other players are 3-of-15 from the floor for six points,” Funk said.

The Bulls gave up 30 points in the final quarter and lost 105-100 to the young Celtics on Wednesday night. Wednesday wasn’t Jimmy Butler’ fault. Butler scored a game-high (and a career-high) 36 points on 12-of-24 shooting in the loss, including 14 of the 36 coming in the final quarter to keep the Bulls at least in striking distance.

Unfortunately for Butler, he appears to be the lone wolf in terms of the Bulls finding the win column again. In the last three games — including Wednesday’s loss in Boston — the Bulls have given up 102 points in the fourth quarter and lost all three games.

“I told Fred [Hoiberg] not to take me out at the beginning of the fourth,” Butler said. “I wanted to play because that’s when we give up those leads, at the beginning of the fourth. Nothing against my teammates, but I think if I’m out there and I get their energy going the right way, now take me out and let me rest.”

Instead, Butler sat for the first three minutes of the quarter on Wednesday and watched Boston jump out to a six-point lead in the time he was on the bench.

The Bulls never got the deficit lower than five points the rest of the night.

What’s crazy about the Bulls at their current juncture: Jimmy Butler is a better player now than he was during his outstanding season last year and the Bulls are still the same indifferent bunch with a new head coach.

His numbers are relatively the same as his ending numbers last year, but it’s clear the impact he has on this franchise. He’s the centerpiece and makes the Bulls go.

It’s eerie to think where the Bulls would have been without Butler’s production on Wednesday. The game was tied at 75 after three quarters and the Bulls lost by five, but who knows what the damage would have been without Butler’s offense.

Here’s the play:

The Bulls are 11-8 this season with Jimmy Butler continuing to play at a high level. Where would they be without him? (Hint: Not a team with 11 wins.)

Outside of Pau Gasol‘s continuous offensive output (and lackluster defense at most times) and Doug McDermott showing more and more that last year was just a rough start to his career with a hot shooting start, what have the Bulls really gotten from everyone else? It’s been Butler navigating the way.

There have been times when Butler’s been vocal about the Bulls needing to step up their performance on a nightly basis. Wednesday was no exception, and to be quite honest, he’s right in his analysis of the Bulls struggling in the fourth quarter as of late. On top of that, he’s backed up his talk with his play and has seemingly taken on a vocal leader role.

It’s been a weird trend lately, but the Bulls have done a terrible job closing games out in this recent stretch of games.

  • Loss to Charlotte on 12/5: Up 75-72 after three quarters, give up 30 points in the fourth quarter, 102-96.
  • Loss to Phoenix on 12/7: Up 77-61 after three quarters, give up 42 points in the fourth quarter, 103-101.
  • Loss on Wednesday: Tied at 75 after three quarters, give up 30 points in the fourth quarter, 105-100.

Next: Butler Pleas With Hoiberg During Fourth Quarter of Boston Loss

The sky’s not falling in Chicago, but the Bulls aren’t a good team right now. Everyone has had to adjust to the changes within in the franchise in the early going, but the Bulls have been basically satisfactory (if you can call them that) through the first 19 games.

Except Jimmy Butler.