Bulls blow 15-point lead, fall to Warriors 102-87
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter February 7, 2014 12:10AM
Updated: February 7, 2014 12:57AM
OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s been a strange season for Jimmy Butler.
That’s why he’s been a topic of discussion for Tom Thibodeau lately, with the Bulls coach reiterating the message for the third-year guard to just keep it simple.
Butler doesn’t need to fill the shoes of Luol Deng, he doesn’t need to give the Bulls an outside threat, he doesn’t need to pick up the slack for Derrick Rose, who was lost for the season with a right knee injury.
He just needs to be himself.
But scoring 14 points on 4-for-8 shooting in Thursday’s 102-87 loss to the Golden State Warriors was not exactly what Thibodeau had in mind.
Not that Butler was the reason the Bulls (24-25) dropped to 2-3 on the six-game road trip. No, there was plenty of blame to go around for the latest showing. Especially for a team that seemed to have the Warriors (30-20) on the ropes midway through the first quarter, jumping out to a 23-8 lead with 5:11 left in the first quarter.
But turnovers, bad decisions, bad passes and an inability to defend the three-point line with any consistency led to a second-quarter meltdown in which the Bulls were outscored 34-17 and allowed the Warriors to shoot 56 percent (14-for-25). That’s how leads disintegrate quickly in the NBA.
And while Butler was just one of the culprits, it does seem lately that as goes Butler, so goes the Bulls. In wins over San Antonio and Phoenix on this trip, Butler was 12-for-25 (48 percent) for 37 points. In the three losses, he is 10-for-28 (36 percent) for 41 points.
“He’s got a unique skill set and he’s got to take advantage of it,’’ Thibodeau said.
More importantly, he has to keep a consistent level of confidence going. That was a big question for Butler in January, when he was shooting 20 percent from beyond the three-point line, averaging 11.9 per game and looking down after games, win or lose.
Butler admitted he fought the temptation to do too much last month. “I always try not to step on anybody’s toes or try to change too much on the offensive end. When you think about that too much, your job is to work through the good and the bad,’’ he said.
According to Butler, conversations he’s had with Rose have helped him settle back in.
“It helps because Derrick is always telling me, ‘Hey, you gotta take this shot because that’s what the game is giving you,’ ” he said.
Now for Butler and his teammates, they have one game left on Sunday in Los Angeles to salvage the “ice-show” road trip. And they may have to do it without Carlos Boozer, who was a late scratch before the game against Golden State with a sore left calf. Taj Gibson scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in his place.