There were still a few boo birds for Jimmy Butler perched at Target Center on Monday night, the first time the Timberwolves played at home since Friday’s consternation-filled home debut.
Perhaps there were fewer of them because there were fewer people in the building. Some booed and some cheered, but they lacked the passion shown in the home opener.
It felt more like a regular regular-season game in the Wolves’ 101-91 victory over the Indiana Pacers, like the fans have begrudgingly eased into this uneasy truce between Butler and the organization — and as a result, a decent amount decided to stay away.
Playing in front of an announced crowd of only 10,371, a little more than half capacity, the Wolves had Butler back in the lineup after he didn’t travel to Dallas for Saturday’s game so that he could get “precautionary rest.”
“I’m just hooping. I don’t really pay attention to the crowd,” Butler said, a game after he said he didn’t understand why the crowd booed him Friday. “That’s my brothers and my guys sitting right there. I interact with them the majority of the game. … Other than that I’m out there just hooping.”
There was some decent hooping on the part of Butler and his teammates.
Butler’s 20 points and dogged defense on the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo loomed large Monday, but it was a fourth-quarter spurt from Wolves reserves that helped them secure the victory.
“I feel like we’re just supposed to do our job, pick up for the guys or whoever is missing the game, our job is to give the game what it’s missing,” veteran guard Derrick Rose said. “At this time, it was pushing the ball and rebounding. We’re not worried about scoring. We’re going to score. But if we don’t have any defense, that’s when we’re in trouble.”
Defense was a big part of that fourth-quarter push. The Wolves gave up only six points to Indiana over a span of 7 minutes, 11 seconds. Offensively, contributions came from Jones (eight points) and rookie Josh Okogie, who scored 12 in place of the injured Andrew Wiggins. After Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns checked in and mixed with some of the reserves, the Wolves kept rolling and led 92-79 at the five-minute mark.
“I thought it was our best overall defensive performance,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Even the first half, we didn’t rebound well but our activity was great. … In the second half our rebounding picked up and our stops got us into the open floor and so the attack was good.”
The Wolves had to play most of the game without Wiggins, who departed late in the first quarter because of a right quad contusion. Thibodeau said Wiggins was “day to day,” and Wiggins said after the game he would make the trip for Wednesday’s game at Toronto.
But the Wolves made do without him. They flipped the script on the glass, outrebounding the Pacers 29-16 in the second half after the Pacers had the edge 29-18 in the first. Butler limited Oladipo to an inefficient 20 points on 23 shot attempts, including a 1-for-7 third quarter.
“He combines great strength, quickness, speed and intelligence,” Thibodeau said of Butler’s defense.
Then the bench took over the in the fourth quarter. Okogie got a nice ovation from the crowd as he checked out.
Even at one point in the night Butler fist-bumped Wolves owner Glen Taylor.
After the game, Butler was among the last players to exit. A small crowd was around the tunnel leading back to the Wolves’ locker room. The chant: “MVP.”