Bulls Market: Butler Carries Bulls to 4 Wins

Chicago Bulls vs Miami Heat - Game OneFor once this season, it’s nice to be (mostly) positive about the Chicago Bulls. Maybe it’s because of the fact we’re still basking in the glow of Christmas, and the Bulls decided the fans were good enough to get a nice, holiday treat. Let’s take just this past Sunday for starters.

On the tenth day of Christmas, I didn’t receive ten pipers piping; no, instead I got a kickass performance by Jimmy Butler, leading the Bulls to their fourth win in a row, and their second against the Toronto Raptors that week. Meaning that at the end of the day, the Bulls finally moved ahead of Toronto for second place in the Eastern Conference. That’s right. The Bulls actually did what they were supposed to do this past week.

When the Raptors opened the week with an 11-5 record against Eastern Conference opponents, and the schedule pointed to two games against the Bulls, I can admit I was a little weary. Signs were pointing to the Bulls losing one, but probably both, making them fall ever further in the East standings and further into irrelevance as we began the year 2016. Obviously, the Bulls had other plans and set out to prove some people wrong. Despite Joakim Noah still sitting out, and then with Derrick Rose being sidelined following Monday’s win over Toronto with an MRI to follow, the Bulls were able to use their deep bench and the star-power of Butler to win in whatever way possible.

Let’s get some things straight on Butler first: he’s a beast. He’s an All-Star. He leads this team now. Sure, Captain Kirk Hinrich is still there as the veteran presence (emphasis on veteran), but at this point it has to be said that this is Butler’s team. Rose isn’t getting it done anymore, sad to say. A superstar does not average 14.4 points per game, which is what Rose is currently doing. Butler has been a savior for this Bulls team, and he especially bailed out the Bulls on Sunday night against Toronto.

If it wasn’t for his onslaught of offense in the second half, the Bulls would’ve lost on account of not being aggressive enough when driving to the basket and drawing fouls. But Jimmy came through, scoring 42 points in the game. The kicker? Of those 42 points, 40 of them came down in the second half. That breaks a Bulls franchise record for most points scored in a half. The previous record holder? Do I even have to say? If that doesn’t attest to Butler’s ascent to the stratosphere in such a relatively short time, I don’t know what does. Butler basically saved the team on Sunday night and it was enough to put the Bulls, at least for now, over the Raptors in the standings.

Another positive from this week is the solid play of Bobby Portis. He had a double-double in the blowout win over New York on Friday, and it’s obvious that coach Fred Hoiberg is going to have to keep Portis in the lineup after injured players start returning. Quite simply, the rookie is too hot right now. Despite being only 20 years old, he’s playing with confidence, as evidenced by his drives to the hoop, unafraid of getting battered around. Even with only scoring four points on Sunday, he had a couple of good moments that just makes one nod their head, knowing that something good is going to come from this young player.

Now of course, this doesn’t mean all is fine and dandy in Chicago; the Bulls could’ve easily lost the second game to the Raptors and the overtime game to the Indiana Pacers if a few things would’ve not gone the Bulls’ way. But this week should give a little confidence to Bulls fans, and the team itself. The team has some more Eastern Conference foes coming up, including the Atlanta Hawks. So once again, the Bulls are going to have to play at a high level if they want to have any chance to be taken seriously as a title contender this year.

Last Week: defeated Toronto 104-97; defeated Indiana 102-100; defeated New York 108-81; defeated Toronto 115-113.

Next Week: Tuesday vs. Milwaukee; Thursday vs. Boston; Saturday at Atlanta.

Who’s Hot: Jimmy Butler

He’s been leading the team in scoring almost every day, and with him single-handedly leading the Bulls to a victory on Sunday with his record setting 40 points in a half, it’s safe to say Butler is on a hot streak.

Who’s Not: Kirk Hinrich

Although he’s been back in the starting lineup lately, his lackluster play is just finally catching up with him. It’s nice when he shows flashes of his younger self, but don’t expect to see that too much anymore.