After a day of treatment on his sore lower back, Jimmy Butler was back in the starting lineup Monday night when the Wolves hosted Portland.
Butler played through significant pain in Saturday’s loss to Phoenix after experiencing back pain in the second half. But, though he played the final 10-plus minutes of the game, he was clearly in pain.
“Basically, it locked up,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said of Butler’s back. “It wasn’t spasms. So, and now it’s loosened up for him. He’s feeling a lot better.’’
Thibodeau said he wasn’t surprised that Butler fought through the pain Saturday or that he got himself ready to play Monday in the Wolves’ 108-107 victory.
“That’s who he is,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s always played through things. He’s a tough guy, tough minded.’’
Butler returned quickly from a nasty upper respiratory infection that knocked him out for two games early in the season. And he played through a badly sprained finger on his left (non-shooting) hand sustained in Memphis on Dec. 4.
His teammates notice.
“It shows how much fight and determination he has,” Tyus Jones said. “He’s extremely tough.’’
Built to last
Butler might be leading the way with his toughness. But durability is one thing the Wolves have a good bit of on this team.
Karl-Anthony Towns has started in every game since entering the league. Monday marked his 195th straight. Andrew Wiggins has started in all but one of his 274 NBA games, missing one in the 2015-16 season. Taj Gibson has also started every game this year.
“A lot of people say that’s the No. 1 ability, guys who play every night,” Thibodeau said.
For Towns, who couldn’t remember the last time he missed a game, there is pride involved.
“I love being on the court,’’ he said. “There are times when I’m on the court, and I fall pretty hard. But I’m always thinking, no matter what happens, you keep playing.”
For the record, the last time Towns missed a basketball game was in seventh grade, when he opted to play in a baseball game instead of a basketball game, when both teams were playing that night.
“I was always raised that, no matter what the injury is, unless you’re unable to walk, you play the game,’’ Towns said.
The toughest thing to play through? Probably a bout with the flu early this season. “That was hard,” he said. “Because you can’t feel anything, and you’re throwing up on the bench, and it’s very hard to compete. But you find ways to do it.”
So has Butler, Wiggins and Gibson.
“It’s great when you look to your left and you look to your right and you’re seeing the same people night-in and night-out,’’ Towns said.
Hitting the road
Having finished their five-game homestand, the Wolves now will play five of their next six games — and seven of their next nine — on the road.
Through 30 games the Wolves played just 10 games against opponents that had a winning record through Sunday. In those 10 games the Wolves had a 2-8 record. Five of their next nine opponents have winning records, including games against Denver both on the road and at home and games at Milwaukee, Indiana and Boston.