You could excuse Jimmy Butler for not being in the most talkative of moods following the Bulls 97-85 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night.
Not only did the Bulls finish their six-game home stand 3-3, but Kevin Durant dropped 35 points on 11-for-21 shooting with Butler being the prime defender -- even with two being put on Durant at times and the entire defense being keyed in to where he was on the floor.
The stint at the United Center saw Butler draw defensive assignments on LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, James Harden, and Rudy Gay. But none of them were able to go off like Durant did, becoming only the second player this season against the Bulls to score 35 points or more in regulation. The other player being Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, who scored 37.
It was the 40th time on the season that Durant had gone for 30 or more and the 32nd straight game he's gone for 25 or more.
"He's a terrific scorer. He can score in multiple ways," Butler said of Durant, careful not to give too much praise. "It's a tough cover.
"I think they're all the same; really aggressive on offense, can score in a variety of ways. (Durant) scores, that what he does."
Butler takes his defense with the seriousness as Durant takes his ability to score. He can have an poor shooting night, but you can count on him to look past that if he makes whoever he's guarding work for their points and the Bulls come out on top.
None of that happened on Monday night. Butler shot 4-for-12 in 45 minutes and Durant -- just as he has most of the season -- made it look easy during his 42 minutes of action.
Durant became only the second player this season to score 35 or more in regulation against the Bulls. Toronto's DeMar DeRozan scored 37 in a Nov. 15 Bulls win.
“He’s a great player,” Noah said. ”We tried to put two on the ball and it opened up everything for everybody else. He demands a lot of attention and you have to give credit where credit is due. He’s the best player in the world right now.”
Butler said he did what he could in trying to limit Durant, and while drawing the opposing team's best player on most nights, this is what he wanted. It's also how things will be going forward with Luol Deng gone and Butler taking on the defensive assignments of his traded mentor.
How's he handling the extended defensive duties?
"Just a lot of ice, cold tubs, massages; all of that good stuff," said Butler.
On most nights, Butler will leave his stamp on the game with his play on the defensive end. But just like the other 29 opposing teams have come to realize this season; Kevin Durant is playing the game at another level.