There was doubt up until the start of tonight's 76ers game against the Bulls if future Sixer Jimmy Butler would be in uniform. Starting big man Pau Gasol was ruled out earlier in the day and Derrick Rose later followed suit. With two major focal points of the Chicago offense sidelined, Butler remained on the active roster and proceeded to carry the Bulls, on a career night, to a 24 point comeback and a 115-111 overtime win at the Center.
The Sixers got off to a great start in the first half as the entire Bulls team except for Butler looked like they were just flashed by the Men in Black memory eraser. Ish Smith was once again the catalyst for the Sixer offense, collecting six assists on the first nineteen points scored by white shirts.
Alongside Smith to help the Sixers surge to a 24 point first half lead were rookie Jahlil Okafor and the previously struggling Robert Covington. Jah had it cooking early, hitting hist first five attempts from the field on an array of creative jumpshots. Covington joined in on the fun by connecting on his first three shot attempts, two of which came from behind the arc. With those two playing as well as any Sixers fan could hope in the first half and how stagnant Chicago looked, the Sixers looked they were in prime position to get their fifth win of the year.
The only problem? That pesky Jimmy Butler.
He carried his 25 point first half performance right on over to the third quarter where he captained a 31-17 Bulls advantage all while living at the free throw line in the process. With a buzzer beating triple, Butler cut that once 24 point deficit down to two as the third quarter ended.
Just when it looked like everything was about to come crashing down on the Sixers, Bob Covington returned to connect on four straight three-pointers in the first four and a half minutes of the closing period, keeping the Sixers in front in the process.
But it was only a matter of time until Butler interrupted the party once again. This time for good.
Nobody on the Sixers had any luck trying to stop the Marquette alum, including the resurrected Covington who fouled out fighting the good fight. Behind Butler's fifteen fourth quarter points (which got him to 50 total), the Bulls officially erased the deficit and looked to have the game wrapped up after an E'Tuan Moore three gave them their largest lead of the night (three points) with 50 seconds remaining and possession of the ball. They were unable to add on to the lead and the Sixers were given one last chance to tie it up and force overtime.
The only issue? The Sixers offense had looked atrocious since Covington's departure. Well, this time was no different. The shot attempt just so happened to make its way through the net as Ish cashed the game-tying three-pointer, sending the Sixers to their first overtime of the season.
After the Sixers scored the first four points of the extra period, the E'Tuan Moore started, effectively ending the game. Scoring seven of the nine Bulls answered points, Moore ensured the Bulls would end their losing streak and leave Philadelphia with a win.
A few random notes:
- The Bulls absolutely brutalized the Sixers on the boards 53-34. At one point in the third quarter, Chicago had 17 total offensive rebounds while the Sixers had 15 defensive. For those who may be confused, that's not good.
- Remember Jah's hot start? Well, those free throws with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter would be his final points for the entire game. He disappeared without a trace worse than Santiago from the second season of Friday Night Lights.
- 25 points on 16 shots, including 6-10 from beyond the arc? Is Bob back?!?!
- Isaiah Cannan didn't play at all during regulation yet played all but fourteen seconds of overtime. How often does that happen?
- While attempting to fight through a Butler screen, Nik Stauskas injured his shoulder and never checked back in. The word around the internets is it's a shoulder contusion.
- Can't wait for Jimmy Butler to suit up in Sixer uniform some day. 53 points on 30 shots, 25(!) free throw attempts, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals? I want all of them.
We're back at it on Saturday against Portland and Lehigh University great CJ McCollum.