Mr. Thomas, meet Mr. Butler, and why the Bulls just might advance
Jimmy Butler wasn’t ready to talk about matchup details minutes after holding on to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday night.
Butler, however, has a good idea of what’s ahead.
Guard Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics in scoring (28.9 points) and finished second to Russell Westbrook in fourth-quarter scoring (9.8 points).
Undoubtedly, he’s Boston’s most lethal weapon — at 5-9.
Butler stands 6-7.
Big bank is about to take little bank.
At least that’s the blueprint, and it’s one the Bulls know all too well.
The Bulls used to be a point-guard-centric team built around Derrick Rose. In the 2010-11 Eastern Conference finals against the Heat, the league MVP met the true MVP, and the 6-3 Rose was dominated by LeBron James, who’s 6-7.
When James guarded him in Game 4, Rose went 0-for-5 from the field with a turnover.
In the close-out Game 5, James forced Rose into a 1-for-10 performance. For the series, Rose shot 6.3 percent when guarded by James.
Go ahead and glue that page into the game plan when the top-seeded Celtics host the Bulls in Game 1 on Sunday.
“I like any matchup,’’ Butler said when asked about the likelihood that he’ll draw Thomas at certain points during the game.
“We gotta throw the first punch on the road, Game 1 at that. I think we’re capable.’’
They’re more than capable.
The Bulls went 2-2 against the Celtics in the regular season, but regular-season results mean little in mid-April. The postseason is about matchups, and that’s why this series will be a lot tougher for Boston than many think.
The Celtics will advance because they have more depth, but they’ll need all seven games to get past the Bulls.
Cowley’s pick: Celtics in seven.
No. 2 Cavaliers vs. No. 7 Pacers
Season series: Cavaliers won 3-1.
Player to watch: LeBron James sat out eight regular-season games. Cleveland went 0-8 in those games. This season’s MVP? Nah. But he’s still the best player on the planet. As James goes, so go the players lucky enough to wear the same jersey.
Key matchup: Sure, Lance Stephenson will do all he can to try to blow in James’ ear again, but this is about Paul George vs. James.
Pick: Cavaliers in six.
No. 3 Raptors vs. No. 6 Bucks
Season series: Raptors won 3-1.
Player to watch: Kyle Lowry averaged 23 points in three games against Milwaukee, and the one game he didn’t play in was the one the Bucks won.
Key matchup: Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t the “Greek Freak’’ for nothing. The Raptors threw everything at him in their three victories. They’ll do the same in this series and make the surrounding cast try to beat them.
Pick: Raptors in six.
No. 4 Wizards vs. No. 5 Hawks
Season series: Wizards won 3-1.
Player to watch: John Wall has finally matched expectations, becoming a much more consistent player rather than a flashing star from game to game.
Key matchup: Dennis Schroder had a breakout season, but it might end in Round 1. He’ll have his hands full trying to slow down Wall.
Pick: Wizards in five.