MIAMI — Playing all 48 minutes is getting to be standard procedure for Jimmy Butler. The third-year forward has done that three games in a row now, something unheard of in modern-day NBA basketball.
But guarding LeBron James is a new experience. Luol Deng has handled those duties pretty much full-time over the years. With Deng back in Chicago trying to shake an illness and bad reaction to a spinal tap, James belonged to Butler during the Bulls’ Game 1 victory.
“I talked to Lu before the game,” Butler said. “He’s just like, ‘Take up his space, make everything tough for him, challenge every shot and of course no layups.’ I feel like if I’m going give layups, make him earn it from the stripe.
“Lu’s going to rest up and we want him back. For now, I guess I’ll be stuck guarding him.”
During the four minute or so James spent on the bench, Butler slid over to guard fellow Marquette product Dwyane Wade. By the way, Butler scored 21 points and collected a game-high 14 rebounds. He wasn’t all about defense this night.
“I’m really proud of him,” teammate Joakim Noah said. “He’s a young player, but he played huge against the best. He’s like a brother and to see him shine the way he’s been shining in these playoffs...I knew he was ready, but the sky’s the limit for that kid.”
Butler was asked after the game how he manages to play all 48 minutes again and again.
“It’s all about the rest that you get in between,” he answered. “I feel like I’ll do whatever it takes for this team to win, if that’s 48 or it’s 20.”
At this rate, Butler should probably sleep until the bus leaves for Game 2 on Wednesday.
James finished with 24 points and made a strong fourth quarter push. But the Bulls finished the game on a 24-10 run after James produced back-to-back 3-point plays to put the Heat ahead 76-69 with 6:34 remaining.
“I think we gave ourselves a chance to win,” James said. “We played some really good basketball, but they made a couple more shots and grabbed a couple more offensive rebounds.
“This is what the playoffs are all about. We’re going against a really good team and we know that, so we’ll prepare tomorrow and be ready for Game 2.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.