Bulls 107, Pelicans 100 – Butler leads Bulls to sixth straight victory.

The Chicago Bulls once again used a powerful fourth quarter effort to break down the New Orleans Pelicans and record their sixth straight win, ensuring Anthony Davis’ first visit to his hometown team ended in defeat.

With six minutes to play in the third quarter, New Orleans trailed 61-60. The Bulls turned that into a nine-point lead by the end of the period and led 91-78 on a Mirotic three midway through the fourth quarter.

The last five minutes provided a glimpse into the Bulls approach when the games really matter this Spring. Rose and Butler are developing a terrific two-man game and combined for the Bulls final 16 points of the game, taking a 91-80 lead and securing another impressive victory.

The duo showcased a variety of shots, with Rose going strong to the cup for a layup, a dunk and a standing ovation from the United Center. Butler added some sublime post moves and drives to the hoop of his own.

Included in the 16-point run – Rose burning past Jrue Holiday with his signature acceleration, crossover and layup as the Bulls pulled away from for the win.

After a fistful of stand-out fourth quarters from Derrick Rose – 10.7 points per fourth quarter over the last three games – Jimmy Butler stated his glaringly obvious case for inclusion in the All Star Game. Butler’s 33 point, 5 rebound, 2 steal line once again showcased his growing confidence in his offensive game with buckets coming from all over the floor against plentiful defensive approaches.

Butler’s scoring on post-ups, drives and spot-up shots has him averaging 21 points per game, by far the best of his career and good for 11th in the league, something not lost on fans, who have the guard six among East guards with fan-favorites Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving ahead despite probably outplaying them.

His play of the night probably pushed the Bulls out of sight, a driving, spinning, pump-faking foray to the hoop that ended with an and-one opportunity and a 33-point night. He also finished the night with five rebounds and zero turnovers.

And now, a few words for the Bulls reserve guards.

Aaron Brooks, despite a sub-par first half, came alive during his typical minutes over the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter, scoring or assisting on eight straight points to push the Bulls to an 11-point lead, their largest of the game.

That the Bulls can run with Brooks and E’Twaun Moore as their backcourt for extended periods speaks volumes of the culture Tom Thibodeau has created, at least for the average backup point guard. Moore didn’t play much until Kirk Hinrich’s most recent injury, but has provided increasingly good performances off the bench. Add him to the pile of rags-to-riches guards Thibodeau appears to have sprinkled his dust on.

Strangely, the Pelicans don’t tend to make Davis the focus of their offensive sets despite his growing skillset, preferring to let him roam around the paint and elbow areas, occasionally running pick and rolls designed to free him for midrange shots.

The result is an offense that bogs down, exasperated by New Orleans’ lack of emphatic three-point shooters. Add in some curious decision making, such as Austin Rivers opting against feeding Davis with Brooks defending him in favor of a fadeaway long two.

A few other stat round-ups –

The Bulls outrebouned their opponents for the fifth straight game and are now +151 on the glass in their last 15 games after starting out flat.

Joakim Noah looked good again, registering a block and seven offensive rebounds.

Tony Snell needs to be assigned to the D-League. E’Twaun Moore has (deservedly) leapfrogged him in the rotation. Snell finished 0-1 in four minutes with a turnover. The only blot on the Bulls copybook this evening.

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