THE Chicago Bulls top scorer Jimmy Butler is looking forward to facing the Boston Celtics in their first-round matchup in the NBA Playoffs not to make buckets but to try and shut down spitfire guard Isaiah Thomas.
The Bulls-Celtics series begins Sunday (Monday, Manila time) at Boston’s TD Garden, and Butler, who averages a team-high 23.9 points, is not backing down from the challenge of guarding fellow All-Star Thomas, third top-scorer in the league with 28.9 points per game.
“"I look forward to that matchup, especially what he's done this year for that team. I know that it's going to come at some point in time. I don't know when -- but I'm going to make it tough for him,” said Butler, who admitted that limiting Thomas will take a team effort after the Bulls practice on Friday.
“For anybody that I'm guarding, not just me, it's going to be a team effort. I'm going to get beat at times, I'm going to need guys to be there. If not, then we'll do it over and over again 'til somebody is there if I'm beat. But I look forward to that challenge. I want that," he added.
Butler is aware he won’t be tasked to guard Thomas the entire time they face on the court, but if he had his way, the Bulls star is confident with his ability to stay on the Celtics gunner ‘the whole game.’
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg admitted that their defensive scheme for the Celtics could put Butler on Thomas for some time, but he insists limiting one of the league’s elite scorers takes more than one person.
“"We need to understand it's a team problem, it's not just the guy guarding him, it's not just an individual assignment,” said Hoiberg.
“He's so good getting into the paint, getting downhill, splitting a ball [screen], pick-and-roll, coverage. He's obviously a guy who can shoot it all over the floor with unlimited range, and he gets himself to the free throw line a bunch. You have to have a great awareness at all times of where he is and make sure all five guys on the floor know where he is," he added.
Butler added that while he expects to play physical defense on Thomas, the Bulls have to lock down on the other Celtics gunners as well.
“"He's a big part to what they do. We all know that. I think they know that. But you can't take him out the game and think that you can win. Because they got a lot of other really good players, role players that make shots, create for others,” he said.
“They guard, they rebound, pass the ball. They got a really good team; they're really good at what they do," added Butler.