The upcoming 1st-round series between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls is just a day away and Jimmy Butler is saying he wants to guard Isaiah Thomas:
Jimmy Butler on the challenge of guarding Isaiah Thomas pic.twitter.com/CnL9YGBrz6— Sean Highkin (@highkin) April 14, 2017
Butler goes the "it's gonna be tough" route in video above and he noted it will take a team effort to contain IT, but when pressed for how long he can hang with Isaiah he didn't back down. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:
"The whole game," Butler said.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said his team does have a plan in place to try and limit Thomas' effectiveness, but admits it's going to be a tall order:
"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.
Last year against Atlanta in the postseason Isaiah had a very uneven series, including a pair of games in which he had horrendous shooting splits that both resulted in Ls for the Celtics. Thomas was the focus of the Hawks defense in that series last year, as he will be with the Bulls this time, but the group around him seems more prepared (and healthy) to step up it's also clear that Isaiah is on another level now too.
After his first All-Star appearance last season Isaiah followed that up with another one and actually ended this year as the 3rd leading scorer in the NBA with 28.9 points per game. While the team around him has improved and the addition of Al Horford has really opened things up offensively Thomas is having an MVP caliber season. Not only is he scoring at such a high volume, but he's doing it with great efficiency.
Thomas' 28.9 ppg has been accumulated by shooting a career-high 54.6% effective Field Goal percentage (that's a formula factoring 2s and 3s) that's more efficient than both James Harden AND Russell Westbrook. You know, the two guys vying for MVP.
He's also become a menace getting to the free-throw stripe, averaging 8.5 attempts a night (5th in the NBA) and hitting on 90.9% of those shots (2nd in the NBA). It's safe to say IT has been on another level, the Celtics are a much better team, and it ain't gonna be easy to bottle up The Little Guy this year.
What happened the last time somebody said they could guard him? I remember Joel Embiid saying he could guard Isaiah went over well. Something to the tune of 24 points and a Celtics win over Philly:
"Nobody can guard me on a switch, especially your big ass!" Isaiah Thomas' in-game "chat" with Joel Embiid who fouled IT on a switch.— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) January 7, 2017
Butler has a better chance at hanging with Isaiah than Embiid based on size alone. Jimmy is known for his defensive prowess, but he hasn't had much effect on IT this season:
Just watched every shot IT attempted against the Bulls this season. Butler affected one. https://t.co/TiusUpTvNJ— Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) April 14, 2017
We'll find out starting tomorrow.
Photo Credit - CSNNE.com
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401 Mark Allison 4/15/2017 12:05:00 PM Tweet Edit