NEW YORK—Jimmy Butler wasn’t exactly in a good mood after the Bulls’ disappointing 110-91 loss to the Nets in Monday night’s Game 5 at the Barclays Center.
But while the Bulls didn’t play well as a team, Butler’s emergence continued, as he scored an efficient 18 points on the evening, on 5-for-9 shooting from the floor, including 3-for-4 from three-point range.
In addition to holding Brooklyn counterpart Joe Johnson to 11 points, Butler was assertive on offense, realizing that he can make an impact on that end of the court, as well as playing his typically stellar defense.
“I guess so,” he grudgingly acknowledged, displeased with the defeat. “I have to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor, not just offense. But I feel like we all have to be. We all have to play five-man offense and five-man defense.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau previously discussed the second-year swingman’s offensive development.
“We have a lot of guys on our team that are similar in the sense that they play for the team, play for each other, play to win. Even if he’s not scoring, he’s helping us in a lot of different ways. He’s an interesting guy,” the coach explained. “After games, when I go back and I watch, I’ll see some things that he did that are very subtle, but very important. He’ll break his neck to get back in defensive transition, tip the ball from behind, get a deflection, make a great multiple-effort play. So that’s what makes him so valuable to our team.
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“I thought coming in, even last year, he had a defensive mindset and I think his offense is catching up. He’s really worked on his shooting and we want him to be a complete player. I don’t want him to be one-dimensional. As I mentioned before, I love his demeanor,” he continued. “The thing about offense is the game tells you what shots to take. Jimmy’s great at running the floor, great at moving without the ball, become very confident in shooting the corner three. He’s worked very hard at it. He has the ability to get fouled and he’s a very good free-throw shooter, and again, you have to remember this is only his second year, first playoff experience, really.”
Butler already had one of the more important, yet subtle plays of the series, when he blocked Gerald Wallace’s game-winning putback attempt at the buzzer of regulation in the Bulls’ epic triple-overtime win Saturday at the United Center.
“Well, the thing is we know we can’t guard their team individually. We have to be tied together, so it was a great play by him and again, we had a number of guys step up and make big plays. Our ball pressure, our weak-side reaction, we have to be able to count on that, so when we’re tied together, we’re pretty good defensively,” said Thibodeau, who also praised Butler’s offense in that game. “We had timely contributions from a lot of people. Jimmy got off to a good start in the first quarter. But he does more than score. His defense, his hustle, his ability to run the floor, move without the ball, those things are all critical for our team.”
Rebounding a major issue for Bulls
As jarring as the Bulls’ 44-33 rebounding disadvantage is on paper, it was far more shocking to see the Nets being the aggressor on the boards against a team that doesn’t usually get bullied on the interior.
“It was the difference in the game. Rebounding,” Thibodeau explained. “Obviously. That, to me, was the difference in the game and then you have to look at how they got them. Was it dribble penetration? Was it the post-up? How did they get them? We have to get back to playing better overall on defense. Allowing a team to score 110 and shoot a high percentage, that’s not going to get it done. The rebounding component is critical.
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“It’s all tied together. Containment of the ball, reckless gambles, smalls not sinking and filling, not getting to bodies, not driving back, not jumping. We’ve got to do all those things,” he continued. “We have to gang rebound. It’s not going to always fall on Jo or Taj. Our smalls have to get in there. They have to come up with some rebounds. Collectively as a team, we have to do a lot better, so you’ve got to hit and then you’ve got to find it.”
Joakim Noah put it more simply: “They were more physical than us. The ball went wherever they wanted. Disappointing loss. We’ve got to bounce back.”
Butler chimed in: “We didn’t box out. I feel like that that’s not an excuse.”
Radmanovic comments on Seattle decision
Before Monday’s game, the NBA relocation committee—a group of 12 league owners—voted to recommend that the Kings stay in Sacramento, as opposed to moving to Seattle, which hasn’t had a team since 2008.
Bulls reserve forward Vladimir Radmanovic, who played in Seattle, lamented the decision—which isn’t final, but just a recommendation—but held out hope for the future.
“Well, honestly I would like to see Seattle get a team again. It’s a great city and there’s a lot of history there, as well,” he said. “But there’s politics in the NBA, as well, so if that doesn’t happen this year, I’m sure it’s going to happen in the future.”