In the previous two meetings with New York this year, Luol Deng was unavailable for the Bulls resting his torn ligament left wrist. Jimmy Butler came into the NBA this year with a defensive mentality, saying “I’m going to guard. I think that’s where I’ve got to make my mark in this league. I’m going to put in that work to be able to guard LeBron and Dwyane Wade.” Like Lebron and Wade, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks is one of the toughest covers in the league – as you saw yesterday when he went off for a season high (and career high as a NY Knick) 43 points in the one point win over the Bulls.
In the previous two match-ups, with a shorthanded roster, Tom Thibodeau entrusted faith in his Rookie to take on the challenge. In the first showdown, Tom Thibodeau had no choice but to give Jimmy Butler some minutes with Luol Deng sidelined. Although Ronnie Brewer began the night guarding Carmelo, it was Jimmy Butler’s valorous 4th quarter that had his teammate Joakim Noah saying: “I think he played great. He played with a lot of heart out there. He really affected the game in a lot of ways. His defense was great, and he hit a big jump shot at the end. I’m real happy for the rook.” Butler held Melo to only 4 fourth quarter points (1-6) after Anthony seemed in line to have a big second half, scoring 12 in the 3rd (with Butler on the bench the entire quarter). The Bulls held off the Knicks 105-102.
In the second meeting on March 12, knowing Butler could guard him, Thibs extended his minutes to 29 and he was locked in Anthony’s space all night forcing him into tough shots – resulting in a 8 for 21 shooting night. There’s no doubt, in both games the unknown rookie got into the All-Star’s head, frustrating him play after play as Butler stood his ground in his grill. He earned praise for his hustle plays from his Derrick Rose, who said he was “the reason why we won this game”.
Butler averaged 25 minutes, 7.5 points, 1.5 steals and “things you might not see in a stat line, but affected the game” (Noah) in those two key games. In the April 8th loss to the Knicks, Luol Deng got his first taste at guarding Carmelo Anthony and played a game high 50 minutes in the overtime loss. Jimmy Butler didn’t even record enough seconds to average up to a minute. Deng was 4-16 shooting and 0-5 from the 3-point line. Although, Anthony did hit a lot of tough shots, Deng’s defense also wasn’t on point tonight and wasn’t affecting New York’s All-Star. Brewer has shown in the previous two games that he is ineffective guarding Melo, which is why Jimmy Butler should get another shot at it – he has already proven he can – why not utilize that. In his last 10 games, Anthony is exceeding his season averages shooting 47% from the field and putting up 25 ppg. Jimmy Butler can guard Carmelo Anthony and deserves to be in the rotation doing so on Tuesday.