No Butler, No Problem
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Before his team faced the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night, Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau stressed the Timberwolves couldn't replace injured star Jimmy Butler with a single player. To overcome his absence, they would need a collective effort.
For at least one game, the Wolves responded.
Jeff Teague scored 25 points, Andrew Wiggins added 23 and Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 13 rebounds for his NBA-leading 53rd double-double of the season in a 122-104 victory over Chicago.
Playing their first game since Butler injured his right knee during Friday night's loss in Houston, the Timberwolves earned a much-needed win after a long day. They arrived home late in the morning, then learned Butler has a meniscus injury that will sideline him indefinitely.
The team is optimistic he will be able to return this season.
"The worst part was getting the news about Jimmy," Teague said. "That's our guy, man. He makes us go. He's our engine and he's our leader, so to see him go down, man, it's always tough. But you know, we've got a lot of talented guys in this locker room. We've just got to step up and play together and still try to collect some wins."
Taj Gibson had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. Jamal Crawford also scored 19 off the bench, including three 3-pointers that keyed a 16-2 spurt to open the fourth quarter and put the Timberwolves comfortably ahead for good.
"We needed everyone and everyone stepped up," Thibodeau said.
The Wolves had little trouble on offense without their leading scorer. They certainly missed him early on defense, though. Zach LaVine scored 21 to lead the Bulls in his return to Target Center since the blockbuster offseason trade that sent Butler to Minnesota.
Chicago trailed by as many as 12 early, but LaVine hit some timely buckets and the Bulls' bench outscored Minnesota's reserves 24-7 in the first half. The Bulls looked to be in prime position to sweep the season series after a one-point win in Chicago on Feb. 9.