We told you Monday that we wanted to see Jimmy Butler pick up some quality minutes for the Bulls vs. Knicks at the United Center. Last night we got what we asked for, as Butler logged 12 quality minutes in the Bulls win over the Knicks (98-86). For 8:32 of the 12:00, Butler was assigned to seemingly uncontainable Carmelo Anthony who had picked up where he left off after single handedly ruining Easter Sunday for the Bulls in the Garden. Not only did the rookie do a superb job, but he should have been tasked to the Knicks superstar even more. Alex Sonty, of Blogabull, gave a nice statistical recap of Butler’s success guarding Melo:
We saw another heroic effort by Jimmy Butler when he repeated his successful shutdown effort against Carmelo Anthony. Butler checked Anthony for 8:32 of the game and finished at a +8. Over that span, ‘Melo bricked a 19-footer, bricked a three, assisted a J.R. Smith 18-footer, bricked a 17-footer, nailed two free throws on a Butler foul, drove it in for a layup, and passed the ball to a fan in the stands. Add it all up and it equals: four points on 1-for-4 shooting, one assist, zero rebounds, and a turnover, according to NBA.com’s game log. And that shouldn’t be surprising when you see that ‘Melo gets forced into the shots the Bulls want him to take more often with Butler checking him, looking at NBA.com’s Player vs. Player stats. In 43 minutes over four games, ‘Melo is shooting only 29% with Butler on the floor, averaging 19.3 points-per-36 minutes in 20.1 shots-per-36. More important, 45.8% (11-of-24) of those shots are coming from the mid-range, compared to 38.4% (28-of-73) against the Bulls this season when Butler is off the floor. Only 29.2% are at the rim (7-of-24) with Butler on the floor, compared to — again — 38.4% (28-of-73) when Butler is off the floor.
Postgame, Kyle Korver commented on Butler’s efforts: ”He goes out there and he doesn’t care who it is, he doesn’t care what the name is on the back of the other jersey, and he’s guarded Lebron like that, Carmelo, you know, he just steps up.” If the Knicks are to face the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, it is refreshing to know that the Bulls can and should have confidence in their rookie to step up against a star player like Carmelo Anthony.
Butler talked defense with the Chicago Sun-Time’s after the game saying:
‘‘Defense is a big part of my game, and I try really hard. My teammates, they have the confidence in me that I can guard whoever I’m lined up against. I think that’s big, but it’s not just me on defense. It’s me and four other guys, and that makes it a lot easier knowing that the tough matchup I may have on a given night, I have four defenders behind me giving me great help.’’