The Wolves were blown out by both the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, losing each game by 20-plus points. But on Friday night, despite not being back to 100 percent, Butler was back on the floor, and he showed exactly why the Wolves traded for him this summer.
The All-Star forward was phenomenal on the night, dropping 25 points on an extremely efficient 7-of-10 from the field, while also getting to the line on numerous occasions to hit 11 of 13 free-throw attempts. On top of his scoring, he also dished out seven assists and grabbed five rebounds as the Wolves beat the Thunder, 119-116.
It was the type of brilliant all-around performance fans in Chicago — and around the NBA — have become accustomed to from Butler. In the fourth quarter, in particular, Butler did exactly what everyone in Minnesota was expecting him to do for the Timberwolves this season: he took over.
Butler scored 13 of his 25 points in the final frame, and between his points and assists, was directly responsible for 18 of the Wolves’ 29 points in the fourth. Time and again, Butler made big plays when the Wolves needed him the most. On four different occasions in the final quarter, his points or assists helped the Wolves either tie the game or take the lead.
And then, with the Wolves clinging to a lead in the final two minutes, he scored two huge buckets that helped them get the victory.
First, with just under two minutes to play, Karl-Anthony Towns gets bottled up on the block, and flings a pass to Butler. With the shot clock winding down, the Wolves need Butler to make a play, and he does just that, driving right and pulling up for a mid-range jumper. Buckets. Wolves up four.
Then just about 30 seconds later, Butler gets yet another clutch bucket. After his initial attempt goes astray, Butler grabs an offensive rebound, makes a nice move to leave Paul George in the dust, and drives baseline. Despite getting bodied by Steven Adams, and nearly being on the ground when he gets the shot off, Butler somehow finds a way to flip the ball up and over the rim for two.
The Wolves obviously still have a long way to become the playoff team everyone believes they can be, but this win is a prime example of why many feel Butler can take them there. He’s a tremendous two-way player, but more importantly, he knows how to win, and is someone the Wolves can rely on in the clutch.
Just look at this stat. Last season, the Wolves were 7-10 in games decided by three points or less. This season, with Butler around to lead the way? A perfect 3-0.
That, friends, is the Jimmy Butler effect.