October 27, 2017, 8:49 pm
Jimmy Butler might be the early season MVP.
I say that tongue-in-cheek, but after watching the Wolves in their last two games without him, and then tonight’s game when he made his triumphant return, you might agree.
Okay, we don’t need to get carried away with the accolades here, but this was an impressive performance given the circumstances.
Butler was out with illness the prior two games and his return tonight was a much needed shot in the arm. At the same time, Butler admitted that he felt significantly below 100 percent and it was tough to gauge what we could expect out of him tonight.
What we got was vintage Butler. He scored a season-high 25 points (his first game with 20), with seven assists, five rebounds and he was able to get to the free throw line 13 times after only reaching the free throw line three times on the season. Last year, Butler was third in the NBA in free throw attempts.
On the defensive end, he wasn’t as active as his normal self, which is to be expected, but late in the game when the Wolves needed some stops, Butler was the guy on the ball, or when the Wolves needed a rebound, it was Butler jumping in with the giants to grab it.
Butler was the player the Wolves bargained for tonight, and it’s abundantly clear they need him out there as often as possible.
Jimmy was so committed tonight, he ended up leading the team in minutes. He’s the cog that steers the ship. The Wolves managed to hold on for a 119-116 victory.
Big KAT was able to out up a monster line, leading all scorers with 33 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. He gathered seven offensive rebounds and was able to put them back up for two points on numerous occasions.
Most impressive tonight was his interior defense. Towns showed the flashes of his tantalizing defensive upside, locking down the paint and holding that second line of defense. Towns was not shy at all to attack the ball, but he was also smart, seemingly on time with his help all night.
This is the type of effort the Wolves are looking to get from him on a nightly basis. That is what will take this team from a mediocre, middle of the pack team to a playoff contender. We know Towns has all the offensive potential in the world, but it was defensive action tonight that stood out.
Much like Sunday’s game, Thibs saw that the bench wasn’t going to cut it and ran with the starters, all going at least 36 minutes. Teague’s two best games have come against the Thunder, this time going for 17 points and 10 assists. He shot 50 percent from the field as well with two 3-pointers, but also had six turnovers.
Taj Gibson had a well-rounded line with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. Wiggins scored 15, but only on 5-of-15 shooting with three rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks. He was not nearly as sharp tonight, throwing up more than a few bad shots that didn’t fall.
As a whole, the Wolves looked more active and engaged than they had at any time their previous two games. The defense wasn’t perfect, but it looked improved. The offense broke out a few new set plays.
I expect we’ll see even more wrinkles added by the team’s next game on Monday. They’ll have two days to prepare for that game on the road versus the Heat.
For the Thunder, their “big three” all scored at least 23 points, Westbrook leading the way with 28. Steven Adams scored 20 points on the night as well, a season-high for him. Outside of those four, there was no reliable source of offense, which will be fairly typical going forward.
It just so happens the Thunder don’t usually need other guys to step up. Oklahoma City has only given up more than 100 points on two occasions this season. Tonight versus the Timberwolves, and last Sunday… versus the Timberwolves.