The Chicago Bulls may not have put the defensive clamps down on the Houston Rockets entirely Monday night, but they did manage to do something most teams can’t: keep James Harden and Dwight Howard off the free throw line. The Bulls beat the visiting Rockets 114-105, led by Pau Gasol’s 27 points and 14 rebounds, but it was Jimmy Butler’s clutch play opposite MVP candidate James Harden that stood out more anything else. Harden — the NBA’s leading scorer (27.2 points per game) — makes his living at the free throw line, as he leads the league in both attempts (300) and makes (267). Conveniently, Butler is second in both categories (252 and 210, respectively), and managed to gain some ground on the league leader.
Butler was not tasked with checking Harden all night, but The Beard still only managed three free throw attempts, while the Rockets only had five as an entire team (yes, you read that correctly). Still, Butler’s late-game one-on-one defense against Harden, combined with two clutch baskets, helped the Bulls notch an impressive win over a Western Conference heavyweight.
Harden finished with 20 points, but — thanks to plays like the one you see above — it came on a rough 7-of-22 shooting performance from the field. Butler had a standard Jimmy Butler game: 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, in addition to drawing a late charge (on Harden) that helped propel the Bulls to victory.
And, just for good measure, here’s Jimmy’s Dunk of the Night, courtesy of an Aaron Brooks lob: