The Chicago Bulls won’t rely solely on Jimmy Butler to stop Isaiah Thomas in the NBA Playoffs.
Butler and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg discussed Friday how they intend to limit Thomas’ scoring in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics. How Thomas, the NBA’s second-leading scorer this season, fares against Butler and the Bulls will impact the course of the series. Thomas undoubtedly poses a stiff test of Butler’s defensive ability, but the Bulls forward is excited about the challenge.
“I look forward to that matchup,” Butler said, per ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “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.”
Butler is willing to stick with Thomas for “the whole game,” but he’s aware he’ll need his teammates’ help from time to time.
“For anybody that I’m guarding,” Butler continued. “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.”
Hoiberg all but confirmed Butler won’t shoulder the task of containing Thomas alone, and the flow of games will determine the details of doing so.
“We do have a plan in place, but obviously you have to adjust if things are going in the wrong direction,” Hoiberg said. “But we do have a plan on how we are going to try to slow him down a little bit, which is obviously difficult to do with the No. 2 scorer in the NBA this year. We need to understand it’s a team problem, it’s not just the guy guarding him, it’s not just an individual assignment.”
The Bulls vs. Celtics series will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday at TD Garden.
Thumbnail photo via Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports Images