CLEVELAND – Jimmy Butler is over Game 4.
As far as the Bulls guard was concerned, the LeBron James buzzer-beater was a highlight reelfor the past.
“That game is over with, so if I’m still worried about that shot, we’re not going to win this game tonight,’’ Butler said Tuesday morning, before the Game 5 shootaround. “I think I need to focus on the task ahead and guarding him to the best of my ability tonight.’’
Guarding James was just one of many on Butler’s to-do list. You can bet attacking injured Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving whenever he’s on the court was also up there.
Irving is not only playing with a sore right foot, but also tendinitis in his left knee. Cavs coach David Blatt started off Game 4 with Irving on Derrick Rose, but nine points later, realized that matchup had to switch. They even threw Irving on Mike Dunleavy for a stretch, and the veteran was even blowing by his lackluster defense.
So where do the Cavs try and hide Irving tonight? Butler didn’t care, as long as whoever it was made them pay.
“Definitely,’’ Butler said, when asked if attacking Irving was a priority for the offense. “You gotta attack everybody, not just Kyrie. But we will attack him, no matter who he’s guarding. We’ll attack whoever we feel like has the matchup to attack. I think coach [Tom Thibodeau] does a great job of putting us into position where you know where guys are going to be on the floor, where they’re going to get their shot at a certain time. So if you play the basketball game the right way, whoever is guarded by whoever is going to get the right shot.’’
And while Butler praised Irving for gutting through it, this is the playoffs where praise quickly turns to exploiting a weakness.
“Yeah, yeah, obviously, obviously,’’ Butler said, when asked if it was easy to see how hurt Irving was. “You want to utilize that. I think the guy is really tough for going out there and competing while he’s hurt, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him, he’s a very good player. But this is playoff basketball and any type of edge you can get, utilize it.’’
As far as the Bulls and their injuries, Pau Gasol [strained left hamstring] was getting treatment and stretching before the shootaround, was going to continue that treatment throughout the day, and would be a game-time decision.