Just a few months ago the NBA Playoffs looked like a dream for the Chicago Bulls. But after winning 6 of their last 8 to close out the season, the Bulls clinched the 8 seed.
Their first round opponent? The Boston Celtics.
Chicago and Boston open the best-of-7 first round series on Sunday night in Boston but this doesn’t have the feel of your typical 1-8 matchup.
The two teams split the regular season series 2-2 and the Bulls are the team with the playoff experience coming into the series.
Guard Dwyane Wade has more playoff minutes than the entire Celtics roster combined and guard Rajon Rondo will be licking his chops going against his former team.
Then there is Jimmy Butler.
The 27-year-old has quickly become the face of the franchise, landing a big contract in the offseason. He’s averaged 23.9 points, 5.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game in the regular season.
He’s certainly one of the biggest x-factors in this series and will likely spend some time guarding Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas is a matchup problem for a lot of players, putting together a season in which he averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game.
But Butler is up for the task and is actually looking forward to the challenge. Here’s what he told reporters on Friday via ESPN’s Nick Friedell:
“I look forward to that matchup. Especially what he’s done this year for that team. I know that it’s going to come at some point in time. I don’t know when — but I’m going to make it tough for him. For anybody that I’m guarding. Not just me, it’s going to be a team effort. I’m going to get beat at times, I’m going to need guys to be there. If not, then we’ll do it over and over again ’til somebody is there if I’m beat. But I look forward to that challenge. I want that.”
Butler won’t be on Thomas all game but he hinted that he wants to guard him as much as he can. If the Bulls want to pull off the upset, they will need Butler to be outstanding on both sides of the ball.
Tipoff for Game 1 is set for 5:30 p.m. CT on Sunday.