The showdown between the Chicago Bulls and the Memphis Grizzlies should have been about a showdown between brothers Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol but it was Jimmy Butler once again and surprisingly Nikola Mirotic stealing the show in another fantastic road performance from the team still missing Derrick Rose among others.
Butler scored 31 points to make it back-to-back 30 point games for the first time in his career. It’s his fourth game of 30 points or more this season after having just one through his first three seasons. He has 16 games of 20 points or more, the most by a shooting guard on the Bull since Ben Gordon has 42 such games in the 2008-2009 season. With 10 rebounds, it was also the first time Butler had a 30-10 game in his career.
While the Bulls have gotten used to Butler leading them (averaging 21.9 points per game this season) and doing everything they were hoping Derrick Rose would do (when he’s actually healthy), Nikola Mirotic playing like just as big of a star came as a bit of a surprise. He had games like this in Europe for Real Madrid, but as a rookie for the Bulls, his improvement curve over the last month has been just short of astonishing. He’s not the leading candidate for rookie of the year, but he’s not that far from it. His previous high was 24 points.
Mirotic scored 27 points and made the most of the Grizzlies packing the paint with defenders. He knocked down all six 3-pointers he attempted, adding 8 rebounds. The Bulls being able to use him as either a power forward or a small forward continues to give them a lot of variety on offense and an ability to keep their form on defense, not having to give up too much in order to have more range and spacing. Aaron Brooks helped out with 3-of-7 from beyond the arc in terms of long range shooting.
Both Gasol brothers had trouble making an impression. Pau Gasol scored just six points on 2-of-7 from the field to go with 11 rebounds. Marc Gasol scored 13 points but on only 5-of-15 from the field, grabbing 10 rebounds. In a battle between two of the best front courts in the NBA, the Grizzlies lost too much of their usual firepower to come through with a win, not to mention the fatigue factor mentioned by their head coach, which doesn’t sound like the most original of excuses. The Bulls were playing a back-to-back and looked quite fresh and powerful.
The Bulls improve to 12-4 on the road this season, 13-2 when holding their opponents to under 100 points. They’ve been doing a lot of this without at least one or two key players constantly. Right now it’s Rose and Gibson, so the theory of them being the best team in the East and maybe the league once their entire lineup is healthy can’t hold up. It’ll be a real shame if it’s another season of the Bulls not knowing what they could have achieved because of key players not staying healthy.