Butler leads Wolves past Blazers
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jimmy Butler powered through a recent bout of back spasms to score 37 points, sinking two free throws that gave the Minnesota Timberwolves the lead with 2.5 seconds left in a 108-107 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.
Jamal Crawford pitched in a season-high 23 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter to spur a rally from 10 points down with 71⁄2 minutes remaining. The Wolves completed their third comeback win this season from a double-digit deficit.
C.J. McCollum scored 20 points for the Blazers, whose three-game winning streak ended when Damian Lillard’s 3-point heave at the buzzer fell short. Jusuf Nurkic had 20 points and Lillard added 17 points and 13 assists, among six Blazers in double digits.
Crawford’s three-point play with 2:49 left brought the Wolves within 105-104, and McCollum missed his next two shots. Defense has been a significant problem for Minnesota this season, but Andrew Wiggins stuffed a shot by Al-Farouq Aminu along the baseline with 1:06 left to produce a critical turnover.
Butler made two foul shots on the other end to put the Wolves in front again at 106-105, with the fans at Target Center chanting “MVP! MVP!” McCollum’s pull-up jumper gave the Blazers the lead back. After misses by Butler and Lillard, Aminu fouled Butler at the end of his drive to the basket to put him at the line.
Butler went 12 for 21 from the floor and 11 for 12 from the line, finishing one point off his season high and injecting a boost of energy into a squad that could use a jolt with just one set of consecutive wins over the last month.
Aminu added 13 points for the Blazers, who shot a season-best 54.8 percent from the field. They finished their second five-game road trip of the season 3-2, after going 4-1 on the first one.
The Wolves wrapped up their five-game homestand with a 3-2 record.
Blazers: Lillard notched his fifth double-double of the season, his second in a row. … The Blazers went 10 for 24 from 3-point range, their sixth game in the last eight outings with double-digit makes from long range.
Wolves: This was Butler’s fourth 30-plus point game of the season. … This was the team’s fourth straight game with 10 or fewer turnovers.
THE BUTLER DID IT
Butler grabbed his lower back in pain toward the end of Minnesota’s 108-106 loss to Phoenix on Saturday, putting his status for this game in question. The tenacious, two-way, three-time All-Star that Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau had to have, acquiring him in the summer blockbuster trade, played as if there was never any doubt about his condition while wearing a compression wrap while he rested on the bench. Butler had 10 of the team’s first 14 points, plus a steal, a rebound and an assist in the first five minutes of the game.
Shortly after Jeff Teague’s layup pulled the Wolves within 76-74, Thibodeau sent Butler to the bench with 2:28 remaining in the third quarter. Then the Blazers scored seven straight points. Wiggins missed two free throws, forced a 3-pointer just 7 seconds into a possession that bounced off the rim and was scored on by Collins with a hook shot in the post on the other end during a particularly irksome sequence for the easily agitated Thibodeau.
NAME THAT BACKUP GUARD
Shabazz Napier had 15 points in 19 minutes for the Blazers, while Shabazz Muhammad watched from the Wolves bench during his fifth straight healthy scratch. Napier and Muhammad are the only players in NBA history with the first name Shabazz, according to the Basketball Reference website.
Blazers: Return home to face San Antonio on Wednesday.
Wolves: Play at Denver on Wednesday, starting a stretch of five out of six games on the road to finish 2017.