The NBA preseason trudged along Thursday night with a very ho-hum affair between the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks at the United Center. The visiting Hawks led the punch-less Bulls 64-47 at the end of three quarters, eventually pushing that lead to 21 and basically telling the Bulls’ faithful to go home early. That is, until Jimmy Butler turned into Michael Jordan reincarnate and popped off for 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a catch-and-shoot three at the buzzer to cap off a miraculous comeback win by the Bulls.
Butler’s final stat line of 29 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks featured an uncharacteristic 12-16 performance from the free throw line, with three of those freebies coming on the possession before his game-winner when he was fouled on a three-point attempt. Also impressive about Butler’s outburst is that it occurred over a six-minute span of the final frame.
On the buzzer beater, Bulls color analyst Stacey King — fully aware of the almost zero implications of the win (again, preseason) — went berserk, basking in the dramatic finish. I say “almost zero” because Butler is up for a contract extension, which the Bulls must offer him by October 31st, or else he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. The Bulls can probably expect more of this from him in the regular season and playoffs, but if he makes a habit of it while playing without an extension, the eight-figure offers will start rolling in come July.
Here are the full highlights of Butler’s epic night: