The Chicago Bulls’ homestand continued as they looked to carry over the positive vibes from their Monday win over the Pacers. Robin Lopez played host to brother Brook Lopez and his Brooklyn Nets, winning by the slimmest of margins, 101-99. See below for Pippen Ain’t Easy’s instant reactions.
The 16-16 Bulls hosted the 8-23 Brooklyn Nets at the United Center, and withstood uneven bench play to post their second straight victory, a 101-99 success, after having lost 9 of their 12 bouts prior to Monday’s win against the Pacers.
Jimmy Butler (40 points) and Dwyane Wade (16 points in just 22 minutes) led the Bulls again in scoring, with aggressive play early from the two-time All Star and clutch scoring late from the 13-time All Star. The return of Doug McDermott following a one-game knee contusion absence helped the Bulls’ spacing. In a scary moment, Wade went to the locker room during the second quarter with a hand injury, but shook it off after halftime.
After Robin Lopez let short-haired twin brother Brook score 11 Nets points in quick succession, the Bulls kicked off a 12-2 run to close out the initial 12 minutes, keyed by Rondo (!) and Niko triples and a great Rondo dish (he had 12 assists on the night) for a Jimmy slam.
Brooklyn’s youth movement (especially Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Sean Kilpatrick) gave Chicago’s defense fits to end the first half, taking a 49-46 lead into the locker room as Wade returned to the Bulls bench late. Brook Lopez had 19 points and was 4-of-5 from deep in the half. Where was that brotherly defense, RoLo?!? Butler did Jimmy Butler things, pouring in 13 points, 9 boards and 1 assist by the end of the first half.
Nikola Mirotic exhibited his predilection for dumb flops with a few obvious showboating efforts that yielded costly turnovers (the Bulls had plenty – 18 , to be precise). Cristiano Felicio again showed off the speed and rebounding instincts that booked him the backup center slot over Bobby Portis — but he also displayed the shooting struggles that have resigned him to shadowing the significantly-slower Lopez, who replaced him after the burly Brazilian missed a point-blank field goal attempt in the middle of the fourth quarter. Rajon Rondo and Michael Carter-Williams split point guard duties pretty evenly in the fourth quarter, as coach Fred Hoiberg continued on struggle with whether he wanted an all-defense, no-offense player or just a no-defense, no-offense player making $15 million.
The Bulls entered the 4th quarter down just 78-74, to a team that hadn’t won a road game in a month and a half, but that didn’t stop them from trying their darnedest to lose late. With 2:50 left, Chicago found themselves lagging 97-90. After Kilpatrick (a surprisingly solid waiver wire addition for my former roommate Danny, by the way) iced two free throws, Chicago subbed in Mirotic for Lopez and went on a 9-0 tear on the back of Jimmy Buckets, who chipped in late with a three-pointer and three out of four free throws. Then Robin’s former-All Star twin brother made a driving dunk with 12.9 seconds remaining, good for his 32nd and 33rd points of the night.
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Happily, Butler reminded us all why he was the best player on the floor tonight, with a clutch buzzer-beating jumper to secure the win (and a 40-point, 11-rebound, 4-assist, 4-steal night) and bring his Bulls roaring back to a .500 record. It was ugly, but a win is a win, and these December victories will be imperative to an April playoff berth.