Beating the Milwaukee Bucks by only one point isn’t exactly an indication of greatness or improvement from the Chicago Bulls, but getting Jimmy Butler back from injury after too long a time finally gives them the option to have some sort of depth off the bench and a lineup that consists of five players, each finally playing in the position he’s meant to be in.
The Bulls came away with the 91-90 win over the worst team in the NBA, as Mike Dunleavy pulled up for a game winning three point shot with only 5.1 seconds left in the game. Slightly earlier his bad defense on Khris Middleton allowed the Bucks to take a two point lead, but one of the biggest problems for the Bulls over the last few seasons, outside shooting, was solved with Dunleavy’s arrival, as he hit a bit shot coming off a screen to maybe start some sort of winning streak going.
Butler had no problems making his return to the Bardley Center, where he has played some basketball during his college days with Marquette. The Bulls have sorely missed someone who feels more or less natural at the shooting guard position, not to mention brings them another dimension of defense and rebounding coming from the outside, which is especially necessary while Luol Deng is injured. Butler scored 16 points, adding 3 steals, looking slightly rusty but nothing of concern in 37 minutes.
Joakim Noah had a big day with 21 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks. He is the first player since LeBron James in 2008 with a 21-18-5-3-3 stat line, with Kevin Garnett joining in to be one of only three active to pull off such a statistical achievement. The Bulls, as you expect from them, were great on the board, winning 44-38 in the rebounding battle and grabbing 17 on the offensive glass. They struggled with outside shooting, as usual, but the 26 assists and 18 points off turnovers were certainly a promising sign, showing that their offense, with Buler back in the fold and hopefully Deng coming back soon, will stop looking like one huge train wreck.
Noah finished the game with a defensive play of heroism, blocking O.J. Mayo in order to prevent any loss coming from a buzzer beater. The Bucks continue to look bad on offense, hitting only 44.6% of their shots and only 18 of their 33 field goals coming off assists. They were led by Gary Neal, coming off the bench to score 17 points, as the team fell to 5-18 this season, including only 2-10 at home.
One of the things that might have helped the Bulls down the stretch was the usual amazing support they get at the Bradley Center, filled up mostly with Bulls fans, driving from an hour away in Chicago, making the place look a lot more crowded than it usually is on most nights. For Tom Thibodeau, it was mostly pleasing to see the kind of offense his team was able to run for some stretches during the game, specifically talking about Noah.
You could see his rhythm coming offensively. Defensively, he’s been terrific from the start of the season but offensively, you can see his timing is back.