Long, lanky defenders were in Jimmy Butler’s face Wednesday night as he would’ve liked a repeat of his 40-point gamer from the west coast swing 10 days ago.
Those same youthful defenders who were no match for Butler at the Staples Center grew up in a hurry in the Lakers’ 99-96 win at the United Center, holding Butler to a 4-for-18 night, limiting him to 22 points in 40 minutes.
Sometimes it was Luol Deng, Butler’s mentor during his early days in Chicago. Other times it was Jordan Clarkson or Brandon Ingram, neither of whom one would think could physically match up with Butler.
But they didn’t let Butler get used to one look and took the fact that he likes using the angles on the wings against him. Many of his shots were off-balance and his one-on-one situations where he could bulldoze lighter defenders were few and far between.
“I thought they were the more physical team in general. All across the board,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg when asked about the Lakers’ treatment of Butler.
Butler entered the game as the NBA’s 10th leading scorer at 25.8 points per game, and other teams will have to find some ways to slow him down considering how easy he can get to the free throw line and how well he’s shooting overall.
One wonders if it’s the type of treatment that will be duplicated by more defensively-adept teams with the personnel to play Butler even more effectively as he’s shooting 47 percent from the field and 40 from 3-point range.
Credit Luke Walton for such a diverse scheme that the Bulls didn’t have much of a counter for. The way the Lakers bounced off Butler during his relatively easy 40-point night wasn’t the case in the rematch.
“Last game because of what he did to us, we wanted to be much more aggressive on him which meant blitzing him on some pick and rolls,” Walton said. “We wanted to switch up our defensive schemes so he couldn’t get comfortable with what we were doing.”
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Even Lakers center Tarik Black, all 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds of him, found himself isolated on the perimeter but had plenty of help all over the floor. When Butler was doubled, the open shooters couldn’t convert, making the double-teams much more potent as the game wore on.
“They were aggressive. I missed a lot of shots but that’s what the gym is for,” Butler said.
When asked if he faced more double teams than in the past, he answered inquisitively.
“Did you see that,” queried Butler before finishing. “I thought they did, too. Good question.”