Chicago Bulls 92, Los Angeles Lakers 86: What did we learn?

Ah, Sunday afternoon basketball. It’s been too long. The Chicago Bulls salvaged a 3-3 road trip after they beat the injury-ravaged Los Angeles Lakers, 92-86. The game had its moments, but we’re kidding ourselves if we call it anything but mostly ugly.

Anyway, on to what we learned, if only so we can stop thinking about this game.

1. Kirk Hinrich seems to like playing on National TV.

Before yesterday’s game, Jay Patt of Blog-A-Bull noted on Twitter that Kirk performs much better when the spotlight is on.

That’s actually gone up slightly now, in wake of yesterday’s 7/13 shooting performance. Kirk was downright competent for most of the game, and it’s hard to think the Bulls would’ve won the game if Hinrich was his usual self.

2. All hail Taj Gibson.

Once again forced into the starting lineup — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say Tom Thibodeau was forced to put him in the starting lineup — after Carlos Boozer’s calf injury, Taj started hot, scoring 12 points on 5/8 from the field in the first quarter. He would then go 2 for his next 10, finishing with 18 points on as many shots, but it’s yet another nail in the “Taj can’t start because he can’t offense!” coffin, which at this point resembles less a coffin and more a pincushion.

3. I’m still in love with Jimmy Butler, though we’re going through a rough patch right now.

I will freely admit that Jimmy has mysteriously lost the ability to make jumpers on anything remotely like a consistent basis — I’m on record as saying Thibs should fine him on a per-jumper basis — and his offensive numbers are what might kindly be described as rough, there is a reason Thibs plays him 40+ minutes pretty much every night. He’s still an incredible defender, he’s capable of making (some) plays off the dribble, and he does other things, like rebound. He had 9 rebounds and 2 steals yesterday. He’s far from Carlos Boozer, who is almost completely useless if his shot isn’t falling.

The fact is, Jimmy’s been dealing with turf toe since he came back in December — coincidentally, this is exactly when his shooting numbers fell off a cliff — and he’s completely over-extended offensively. Last season, Jimmy basically was asked to spot up and crash the boards in half-court situations, and get out and run in transition. Now, he’s being asked to handle the ball a lot more, and I wonder if that’s contributing to his struggles. Last season, his usage rate was 14.6, according to basketball-reference. This year, it’s 17.4. Not a huge jump or anything, but maybe one that’s too high for Jimmy’s skills right now.

Anyway, on that somewhat depressing note, that’s all I got. The Bulls are off today before they return home to take on the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night.

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