Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler feasted against the worst team in the NBA on Thursday night, dropping a career-high 53 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Bulls needed almost each and every one of those points in a 115-111 overtime win.
As he continues his takeover as the face of the Bulls franchise, Butler shot 15-of-30 from the field with a pair of three-pointers while going 21-of-25 from the free-throw line.
Butler became the first Bulls player to reach the 50-point mark in a while, as Bulls Radio's Jeff Mangurten pointed out:
Jimmy Butler is the first Bull to score 50 points in a game since Jamal Crawford in April 2004.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) January 15, 2016
And Butler's 53 were the most by a Bulls player in even longer, according to ESPN.com's Nick Friedell:
Jimmy Butler's 51 points are the most by any Bull since Michael Jordan scored 55 on April 27, 1997. Via @jacob_nitzberg.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) January 15, 2016
That's not all, according to the NBA:
Jimmy Butler is the first Bull to have a 50 point, 5 rebound, 5 assist game since Michael Jordan in 1993.— NBA (@NBA) January 15, 2016
Butler's performance in Philadelphia put him in elite company, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
Jimmy Butler: with 51 pts, he joins Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan as the only players ever with a 50+ pt game on the road vs the 76ers— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 15, 2016
Prior to the game, the Bulls weren't sure if Butler was even going to play Thursday, per Friedell:
Jimmy Butler didn't even go through shootaround this morning because of his ankle.— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) January 15, 2016
Philadelphia couldn't stop him from any part of the floor. The Bulls showed a replay of a monster drive to the hoop over 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor:
Jimmy Butler has been💰all night! (WPWR) https://t.co/6O2d8AoI7X— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 15, 2016
And Butler was doing it with flair, as NBA on Def Pen noted:
Bleacher Report shared highlights of Butler's night:
Jimmy Butler went off for 53 points against the 76ers! https://t.co/ubBCv18cAS— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 15, 2016
Rapper Jae Millz was watching:
Jimmy butler been showing off this season. He balling for real!— Millzy (@JAE_MILLZ) January 15, 2016
Soccer player Patrick Doody of the Chicago Fire was watching, too:
Jimmy Butler is doing insane things for @chicagobulls right now. This is fun to watch.— Patrick Doody (@PatrickDoody19) January 15, 2016
Former Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs seemed unfazed by Butler's performance:
Jimmy Butler doing Jimmy Butler things... 👌🏽— Lance Briggs (@LanceBriggs) January 15, 2016
Barstool's Dan Katz was more excited:
Jimmy Butler > Everyone ever— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) January 15, 2016
It wasn't a bad night for a player who went 30th overall in the 2011 draft. Troy Machir of Sporting News pointed out some of the men taken before Butler:
Reminder: Dudes drafted ahead of Jimmy Butler: Jimmer Fredette Jan Vesely Chris Singleton Nolan Smith MarShon Brooks Jordan Hamilton— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir) January 15, 2016
This has to be an exciting sight for Bulls fans, who have Butler locked up in red and black until the end of the 2019-20 season. A performance like this will further endear the guard to Chicago fans as his numbers continue to get better and better.
At 26 years old, Butler is just warming up.
For head coach Fred Hoiberg, it doesn't get much better than that, per Friedell:
Hoiberg on Butler: "As good of a performance as I've seen."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) January 15, 2016
And he was going to stay with him until the very end, via Friedell:
Hoiberg on keeping JB in: "It was one of those looks like if you take me out I'm going to quit, that kind of thing. So I kept him in there."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) January 15, 2016
After playing 49 minutes on Thursday night and willing the Bulls back from a 24-point deficit, Butler remained unfazed, per Def Pen Sports:
Jimmy Butler asked about how tired he was towards the end of his 53 point game. "Me tired? Nawh That doesn'... https://t.co/7SGbVrPaVG— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) January 15, 2016
Butler told reporters that being down so much to the league's worst team did not bring out the best in Hoiberg at halftime, per Friedell:
Butler says Hoiberg was more upset at halftime than he has been all year. Butler smiled. "I liked it."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) January 15, 2016
Yes, this was a come-from-behind victory against a much weaker team, but Butler showed the league something Thursday night. Even in one of its worst performances of the season, Chicago found a way to win by getting behind its best man. That's the mark of a pretty good team and an even better player.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.