Playoff Putbacks: Bulls’ breakout star
by Sean Highkin, USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Bulls took a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Brooklyn Nets with Saturday’s 142-134 triple-overtime thriller, but they aren’t expected to go far in the postseason without Derrick Rose. The silver lining to what can mostly be considered a lot season for Chicago is the discovery of a future star in Jimmy Butler.
The second-year forward out of Marquette has grown into one of the Bulls’ most consistent, reliable and versatile two-way players, a fresh set of legs capable of playing either forward position as the Bulls have dealt with injuries to Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah this season. He’s developed into a solid defender and steadily improved as a shooter over the course of the season, adding a step-back midrange jumper to his game that wasn’t there even as recently as the All-Star break.
Saturday’s game was defined by Nate Robinson’s heroics, but Butler scored 16 points on an efficient 6-for-8 shooting performance. He found success with high-percentage shots and hit from every spot from which he shot.
Some things about the Bulls’ surprising performance in the postseason are not sustainable. Robinson scoring 34 points in 29 minutes to lead the team back from a double-digit deficit probably isn’t going to happen again. But one thing the Bulls can build upon is Butler’s blossoming abilities. Between his solid defense and smart shot selection, there’s no reason he can’t be a core piece of a reconstructed Rose-Noah-Gibson Bulls nucleus in the future.
Nate the great: Robinson had, all things considered, the best game of his career, or at least the most eventful. He got into a scuffle with C.J. Watson, came within one point of tying a Bulls franchise record set by Michael Jordan, and made TNT commentator Steve Kerr go literally insane.
Distant early warning: The Oklahoma City Thunder weren’t going to let Patrick Beverley off easy, even if the play that injured Russell Westbrook wasn’t dirty. Kendrick Perkins laid Beverley out with a monstrous illegal pick at halfcourt less than 30 seconds into the game.
KD is not nice: Kevin Durant scored 41 … [For more on Playoff Putbacks: The Bulls' breakout star, click here.]