December 28, 2017, 1:17 am
Jimmy Butler ladies and gentlemen. Those early season questions of his fit with the team? His lack of aggression? His offensive value?
It all seems like a distant memory now. Butler has six 30-point games in the month of December and is averaging 31.2 points over the Wolves’ five-game win streak while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 92.2 percent from the line on 10.2 attempts per game.
Tonight he scored 39 points on 10-of-20 shooting, 3-of-6 3-pointers and 16-of-18 from the line, adding five assists, four rebounds and one steal. He also scored 12 of the teams’ 14 points in overtime.
The Wolves jumped out to a big lead early in the first half, getting up by as many as 19 points. The Nuggets closed the gap going into half time but were still down by 13 points. Minnesota shot 58.7 percent from the field in the half, which was a season high.
Come the third quarter the offense really stalled and Denver was able to climb back into the game, closing the third quarter with a 14-2 run and extended the run to as many 22-4 into the fourth quarter.
Minnesota regained control temporarily before once again losing control late and went to overtime, where Jimmy Butler took over. It was an unnecessarily entertaining game thanks to the second half collapse and Butler’s theatrics.
The Wolves’ string of net positive fourth quarters ended tonight as well.
The Wolves had a number of other great performances tonight besides Butler. Karl-Anthony Towns had another double-double, scoring 14 points with 13 rebounds, six assists and blocking four shots. He shot 6-of-12 from the field, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and didn’t take a free throw. He also fouled out.
Wiggins broke out of his shooting slump, particularly from deep. He scored 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting, while going 5-of-8 from deep. He added three rebounds and a block.
Taj Gibson scored 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting with four rebounds, two assists and a block.
Jeff Teague had an efficient game with 11 points, 10 assists and no turnovers. There is major concern about his health though. His leg got rolled onto by Gary Harris and he left with a knee injury. The fear is an ACL tear, but more tests are to come.
On the other side Will Barton broke out for the Nuggets with 28 points, five assists, three rebounds, and four 3-pointers off the bench. Trey Lyles scored 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and hit four 3-pointers off the bench as well.
The Wolves have struggled with opposing bench players from beyond the arc this season.
Nikola Jokic scored 22 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished four assists, swiped two steals and blocked two shots, adding a 3-pointer as well. As usual he was all over the floor.
As a team the Wolves shot 52.2 percent from the field and hit 12 3-pointers, compared to the Nuggets’ 46.2 percent and 15 3-pointers. Both teams took care of the ball, combining for just 15 turnovers.
Next up the Wolves head out to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks, looking to win their sixth straight game.