Pau Gasol

The Chicago Bulls win two games in a row which doesn’t just keep them above the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern conference playoff race, but gives them a rare win while Jimmy Butler sits out due to soreness in his knees.

Maybe it’s just a precaution and not wanting to throw him back too quickly with too many games, but the official reason for Butler not playing in the 100-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks is soreness in his left knee, which is always a cause for concern at the Chicago Bulls. Injuries are always bigger and longer for this team for whatever reason, and losing Butler once again for a prolonged amount of time could be a killer to their playoff hopes, even if the Pistons don’t seem like a team that can really escape them for now.

Besides the worries about Butler, this was Pau Gasol’s game. He finished with 12 points on a rough shooting day, but also 17 rebounds, 13 assists and 5 blocks. It’s his ninth career triple double, but it’s also just the third player with a 10-10-10-5 game in the last 30 years, alongside DeMarcus Cousins and one Hakeem Olajuwon. Once again, the Bulls find themselves with a big man being their best passer, but the ball moving quite often and the 11 blocks the team had (Taj Gibson finished with three) gives them a little bit more to be pleased about.

It’s only 0.5 of a lead over the 9th placed Pistons, but the Bulls should overall be happy. Derrick Rose had 22 points and always plays well against the Bucks. He finished with 7 assists and 6 turnovers and for a change, had the best +/- on the team with +20. Remember Hoiberg saying Rose is finding it difficult to generate acceleration off of one of his knees? He’s been looking plenty fast in recent games and playing well on both ends of the floor.

Mike Dunleavy being a part of the team again helps. He scored 18 points, but the rotation of defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo helped keep the Bucks’ attempt at a new playmaker frustrated, shooting just 5-of-13 from the field, and overall made his ball handling look quite uncomfortable, with E’Twaun Moore (16 points) and Nikola Mirotic, coming off the bench, helping out in the defensive assignment on him.

And Mirotic himself looks better and better. He’s coming off the bench, scoring 14 points. It’s his second game after missing more than a month of basketball and while he doesn’t give the Bulls the two-way edge Butler does when he’s healthy, Mirotic’s points were something they missed. No one is filling his head with championship delusions – that’s not happening, despite the usual preseason expectations, but if the Bulls can do relatively well in the upcoming rough stretch, there will be something to at least be a little bit happy about when they make it to the playoffs.

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