Butler, McCollum face off as Bulls visit Blazers
PORTLAND, Ore. — The matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at the Moda Center features a duel between two of the better shooting guards in the NBA.
Chicago's Jimmy Butler collected 37 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals Saturday in a 116-105 win over the Washington Wizards.
Portland's CJ McCollum scored 21 points to help the Trail Blazers defeat Denver 112-105 at home Sunday night.
Butler is the first Bull to reach those figures since Scottie Pippen had 37, eight and eight in December 1995. The 2016 U.S. Olympian, who is averaging 24.3 points, is the first Bull who has scored at least 20 points with three steals in four straight games since Pippen (1994-95).
“I can't express how much easier it makes it on everyone else having someone like that on both sides of the floor,” Chicago center Robin Lopez said.
Over the past four games, Butler is averaging 29 points, seven rebounds, 5.3 rebounds and four steals and is a collective 42 for 46 at the line.
“We're putting the ball in his hands bringing the ball down the floor a lot more than we did a year ago,” second-year Bulls coach Fred Holberg said. “Last year, we'd bring him off action to get him to the top of the floor. Now he's bringing it down and going to work. We want the ball in Jimmy's hands because of his ability to draw contact.”
Butler is providing more vocal leadership, too, than ever before for the Bulls (6-4).
“The thing I love about him is how he has continued to talk and been a great leader with his voice this year,” Holberg said.
Said Butler: “It's going to have to be me to lead the charge when it comes to coming out with the right energy, making sure we're doing everything we're supposed to do at both ends. I'm definitely capable of doing that.”
McCollum also is on a scoring tear of late, with three 30-plus-point games in his past five games for the Blazers (7-4).
“CJ seems to have found his rhythm,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said of the 2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player Award recipient. “I go back to when everybody was so concerned about him in preseason. He has showed he is picking up where he left off last year.”
That was a breakout season for McCollum in his first year as a starter. He averaged 20.8 points while shooting 44.8 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from 3-point range and 82.7 percent from the free-throw line.
So far this season, McCollum is boasting better numbers across the board — a 22.1-point average while shooting 47.2 percent from the field, 43.1 percent on 3-point attempts and 85.7 percent from the line. He is also averaging 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a combo guard, since Stotts is employing him at the point when Damian Lillard is out of the game.
“I just want to do whatever it takes to get on the court,” McCollum said. “When I'm playing alongside 'Dame,' I get a lot of opportunities off the ball, a lot of shots in the flow of the offense. When I play (as point guard) with the second unit, I'm trying to make the right decisions on the pick-and-roll, and when 'Dame' comes back in, to get him off the ball some as well, because he's a unique scorer.”