Wolves point guard Jeff Teague injured his left knee and had to leave the game following a scrum for a loose ball with 13.4 seconds left in regulation Wednesday night against Denver.
Teague will have an MRI on the knee Thursday. Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t ready to comment on the severity of the injury until after the test is done.
But it appears the Wolves might have to rely on Tyus Jones as the starter in the near future.
“As always, it’s whatever the team needs me to do,’’ Jones said after Wednesday’s overtime win. “I’m hoping Jeff is all right. You never want to see anyone go out with an injury. But it’s the next man up. I’m ready to help this team in any way.’’
Jones started three straight games in November when Teague was out because of a sore Achilles. The Wolves went 2-1 and Jones averaged 12.3 points and 6.7 assists while shooting 54.1 percent.
“I love the way Tyus plays,’’ Butler said. “He plays the right way. He takes and makes big shots all the time.’’
There was a time not so long ago the fourth quarter was a problem for the Timberwolves.
Through the end of November the Wolves had a net fourth-quarter rating of minus-15.4. That was last in the league. Even now, in late December, the Wolves’ net rating is still minus-5.4, 26th in the league.
But the Wolves are trending in the right direction. So far in December that net rating is a plus-13.7, second best in the NBA to Houston (14.3).
The biggest reason is offense. While the Wolves fourth-quarter defense has improved, it is the offense that has taken off. For the entire season the Wolves have a 107.5 offensive rating in the fourth quarter (a calculation of how many points a team scores per 100 possessions). In December that number is 121.1.
“I don’t know net ratings, I just know my eyes,’’ Jamal Crawford said. “The eye test is telling me that we’re doing a better job handling adversity. We’re doing a better job of, when teams make runs, not getting tight, not folding, just doing what we did to get the lead in the first place.”
There were times when the Wolves seemed to go more to an isolation-based offense late in games. The ball appeared to move less, and the offense became stagnant. But in December the Wolves are sixth in fourth-quarter assists.
The Wolves this season are fourth in offensive rating (112.4), third in assists-to-turnovers (1.92), fourth in second-chance points (14.4) and fourth in points in the paint (47.9). It’s just that the team is carrying it through the fourth quarter.
Nemanja Bjelica played less than six minutes and took only one shot in his return to action against the Lakers on Christmas Day after missing 15 games because of a left mid-foot sprain. The good news is his left foot felt fine after the game, and the next day.
The conditioning will come, Thibodeau said. As will the minutes.
“We knew there was going to be some rust,’’ Thibodeau said of Bjelica, who played 10 minutes Wednesday night. “You can’t miss that amount of time and just pick up where you left off. We’ll keep building on it.”
• Thibodeau on the Wolves’ gray “City Edition” uniforms that were unveiled Wednesday: “The league is excited about it, the players are excited about it. So I’m all for it.”