February 24, 2018, 11:51 pm
In day one without Jimmy Butler, there was certainly some concern about how the Wolves would fare. They lost just before the break to this Chicago Bulls squad, they played last night on the road and had plane troubles that delayed their arrival this morning, and of course they lost their main man Butler.
Naturally the Wolves won comfortably 122-104.
They busted out of the gate with a 31-point first quarter, leading to a seven-point lead. Andrew Wiggins came out strong with 10 points in the first quarter and Jeff Teague chipped in across the board with five rebounds, three assists, two 3-pointers and one block.
The second quarter was dreadful as the defense collapsed, allowing the Bulls to score 38 points.
From there the defense tightened up, holding Chicago to just 42 second half points on 41 percent shooting. The Wolves used a 21-3 run that spanned the end of the third and fourth quarter to jump out to a 17-point lead. The Wolves got the lead up to as high as 22 points before winning by 18.
Wiggins finished with 23 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers on 10-of-18 shooting overall.
There’s not likely one guy who’s going to consistently see a big boost with the absence of Butler, it’s usually going to be a collective effort picking up the slack. Tonight it was Teague, who finished with 25 points, adding seven assists, seven rebounds, two steals, one block and three 3-pointers on 8-of-17 shooting from the floor.
Towns had a solid game as well, shaking off a really slow start to finish with 22 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and one block. He shot 9-of-20 from the floor, 0-of-5 from 3-point range and 4-of-6 from the line. Towns made 37 free throws in a row before missing his final two of the game.
Taj Gibson scored 19 points with 10 rebounds, three assists and one steal on 7-of-11 shooting.
The Wolves’ offense was able to sustain course even with Butler out, and the defense, surprisingly, had a strong game. Outside of the aforementioned poor second quarter, the Wolves did a fine job holding down the two former T’Wolves.
Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine shot 10-of-20 combined in the first half. After halftime the Wolves held them to 1-of-9 shooting.
The Wolves shot 48.9 percent from the field, 31.4 percent from beyond the arc and 73.1 percent from the line. Minnesota took a season-high 35 3-pointers. Teague and Jamal Crawford took 16 between the two, making eight of them.
The Wolves typically outscore their opponents at the free throw line, making the most per-game in the NBA and taking the second most. Butler takes the most freebies on the team, by far, but the Wolves still took more free throws than the Bulls tonight (26-to-20) and were above their season average in attempts.
Outside of the second quarter this was a productive game for the Wolves, given the circumstances. The Bulls are a bad team, but it was at least nice to see the Wolves more or less land on their feet after the Butler news.
Every win down the stretch matters, and for the time-being the Wolves jumped the Spurs and currently sit third in the Western Conference standings. They’ll travel west for a three-game road trip that kicks off in Sacramento and look to hold their third spot on Monday.