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Dieng ready to return; Butler not worried about six-point game

Is tonight the night Wolves center Gorgui Dieng starts another games-played streak?

His last one of 175 consecutive games played -- dating to the start of the 2015-16 season -- ended Saturday in Phoenix, the first of three games he now has missed because of a sprained index finger on his shooting hand.

He practiced Thursday and participated in shootaround this morning in Dallas before tonight's game against the 2-13 Mavericks.

"We'll see how he does," Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said, referring to Dieng's game-day preparations. "He's definitely a lot better. I know Gorgui. If he can play, he's playing."

When he returns, he'll be rejoining a second unit that is starting to find its rhythm, particularly because of the play from Nemanja Bjelica and Tyus Jones.

While that second unit has found something, Wolves starter and star Jimmy Butler scored six points in Wednesday's 98-86 victory over San Antonio and is shooting 33.3 percent -- 18 for 54 -- in his last four games.

Both Thibodeau and Butler said there's no reason for alarm and said it's only a matter of time before his shot returns.

"Jimmy can play great without shooting well," Thibodeau said.

Tonight is the start of three games in four days. Included is the logical Minneapolis to Charlotte back-to-back with Sunday's game against Detroit at Target Center and Monday's game against the Hornets.

Dieng out for Timberwolves, Rudy Gobert out for Jazz tonight

The Timberwolves didn't take advantage when San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard missed the season opener for both teams last month or when Kevin Durant didn't play for Golden State last week in Oakland.

 

 

This time, they won't see Utah's star center Rudy Gobert, who's expected to miss at least the next month because of a bone bruise in his knee sustained when Miami's Dion Waiters rolled into him in a home game on Friday night.

The Jazz also are without Joe Johnson and Dante Exum while Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau doesn't expect backup center Gorgui Dieng to play.

It'll be the second consecutive game without Dieng, who sprained his right index finger in Wednesday's lopsided loss at Golden State.

The Wolves officially list Dieng as doubtful and fellow center Cole Aldrich (sprained knee) as questionable.

Without Gobert, the Jazz played small, spread the floor and beat Brooklyn 114-106 on Saturday with rookie Donovan Mitchell scoring 26 and remaining big man Derrick Favors 24.

"Obviously, he's a great player and an All-NBA player, so that changes things," Thibodeau said. "But I think they're a very good team here. They played great against Brooklyn without him. Their defense is terrific, so they're very dangerous. They're 6-3 at home, so we have to be ready."

This is the Wolves' second look at Ricky Rubio, whom they traded to the Jazz last summer for Oklahoma City's 2018 first-round pick and the cap space created to sign free agent Jeff Teague.

Rubio started the season shooting and scoring where he left off after an impressive finish to last season. But in his last five games, he's shooting 26.5 percent from the field (13-for-49), which includes 1-for-17 on threes.

The Wolves won that first game with the Jazz, 100-97 at Target Center last month in the season's second game, the Wolves' home opener.

A few other things about today and tonight's game:

* Today is Wolves forward Shabazz Muhammad's 25th birthday

* Nemanja Bjelica visited Rubio's mountainside home Sunday evening and came away impressed with teh view of the Wasatch Range.

* The Wolves' Iowa G League team acquired forward Perry Jones as a returning rights player. He played 24 games last season for the Iowa Energy and went to camp this fall with New Orleans. He was the 28th player taken in the 2012 draft, by Oklahoma City.

That is all until tonight's coverage on startribune.com

Final, 11/20 1 2 3 4 F
Minnesota 10-7 24 28 28 22 102
Charlotte 7-9 26 29 29 34 118

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