SportsPulse: We spoke with HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy to get the inside scoop on what went wrong between Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves.
Jimmy Butler encouraged the fans to boo him, and the Minnesota crowd obliged. But some appeared to quickly forget their anger.
The Timberwolves’ home opener began Friday night with Butler getting heartily booed during introductions before facing the Cleveland Cavaliers. It ended with Butler on the free-throw line to seal a 131-123 victory and some of the same fans showering the disgruntled star with an “M-V-P!” chant.
Butler has been at the center of turmoil since demanding a trade last month. In an interview earlier this week, Butler said he anticipated a negative response from T’wolves fans but didn’t seem worried about it.
“Sure. Go ahead, boo me,” Butler told The Athletic. “It ain’t going to change the way I play. That’s going to make me smile more. So please, come on with it.”
The fans seemed happy to meet Butler’s expectations.
By the second quarter, though, things were quite different.
Butler elicited a roar from the crowd early in the second when he threw down an alley-oop from Tyus Jones on a fastbreak. Shortly after, Butler went to the free-throw line and the first “M-V-P!” chant broke out.
Butler then helped finish off Cleveland in the fourth with 15 of his 33 points in the final frame. After the Cavs cut the deficit to 127-123 with just under a minute left, Butler hit a pull-up jumper over Kevin Love to extend Minnesota’s lead. Butler then iced the game with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds amid another “M-V-P!” chant.
Butler led all scorers with his 33 points. He shot 10-of-12 from the field and 12-of-12 from the free-throw line, and added seven rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks.
Andrew Wiggins added 22 points as seven T’wolves scored in double figures.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.