The anticipation over the NBA returning and the Wolves’ march to the playoffs was palpable. A big road game against the Rockets to kick things off made things a little more enticing.

    The excitement built when the Wolves came out and took control of the first quarter. The offense came right out without a hint of rust and the defense was holding their own, suppressing the Rockets’ 3-point attack. After the first the Wolves led 32-26.

    From there the Rockets began to climb back a bit and the teams went back and forth, with the Rockets leading by only two points at halftime. It was shaping up to be a close contest.

    In the third all the excitement, all the goodwill, all the energy was mercilessly punched out of the Wolves after Jimmy Butler went down with an apparent knee injury. It wasn’t a gruesome injury, one of those weird plays where guys go down with minimal contact. Unfortunately those ones are usually the worst.

    For a guy like Jimmy, he’s not going down like that just for a stinger.

    The teams played on momentarily after Butler went down, but it was quickly apparent that something was seriously wrong with Butler. Chris Paul went on the court and encouraged Butler to stay down and avoid making things worse.

    It was initially tough to tell what exactly was wrong but eventually it looked like they were isolating his knee. With the non-contact nature around the knee, the first worry is an ACL tear. That would obviously be a devastating blow.

    When they were able to get Jimmy up and off the floor, it seemed like he said “it’s torn,” referring presumably to his knee. He did not return to the game.

    No word has come out, other than x-ray results. They were negative, but an x-ray can’t detect an ACL tear, only bone damage to the knee. It’s a minor victory that at least there’s no further damage, but an MRI tomorrow will determine the full severity.

    Until then, the Wolves can only hope for the best.

    The Wolves were down by 11 at the time of the injury and were unable to mount a comeback, losing 120-102.

    Wiggins was the leading scorer with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, with four rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers. If Butler is out, Wiggins will be thrust into a much larger role again, along with Karl-Anthony Towns.

    Towns finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, one block and one 3-pointer. He shot 6-of-15 from the floor and 5-of-5 from the line.

    Jeff Teague scored 18 points with four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

    In a worst-case scenario, that being Butler having a torn ACL, the Wolves could be in serious trouble. Offensively they will perhaps take a small step back, though they still have a ton of talent to make up for it. Defensively there is no chance for improvement, and depending who steps into the lineup in Butler’s place, the defense will mightily regress.

    The Wolves are currently 3.5 games from falling completely out of the playoffs, so there is little margin for error. Even if this happens to be a short-term injury for Butler, the Wolves have an extremely tough schedule ahead.

    Eight of their next 10 games are against opponents over .500, including Golden State, Boston and Houston.

    Simply put, this injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Wolves. Further updates will be provided, but for now it’s safe to assume Butler will be out tomorrow night against the Bulls.

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