The Timberwolves on Saturday night were playing on the back end of one of the most difficult back-to-backs one might think of.
Friday in Houston the Wolves lost both a game to the Rockets and star Jimmy Butler to a knee injury for at least a good while. And then they were unable to get out of town because of mechanical difficulties with their plane; they didn’t hit the ground in Minnesota until after noon Saturday.
So: strike one and two.
Don’t count them out yet.
With Butler out, in front of the 11th sellout of the season — despite a snowstorm — the Wolves found scoring from a lot of places and defense when it mattered in a 122-104 victory over Chicago.
“We were going to win this game, no matter what it took,’’ said center Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds. “If we’d have had to fly here and come right to the arena, we were going to win.”
And, without Butler — for however long — this might be the way they do it:
The Wolves had five players in double figures, six players with multiple rebounds, seven with multiple assists. Before the game coach Tom Thibodeau said no one person could replace Butler. But everybody, together?
“I think this is the recipe,” said Jamal Crawford, who came off the bench to score 19 points, including 12 points on four three-pointers from the end of the third into the fourth during a 21-3 Wolves run. “If it’s going to be sustainable, it has to be a collection of guys. Hopefully, this is what it could look like.”
Staying aggressive, point guard Jeff Teague had 25 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Andrew Wiggins scored 23. Taj Gibson had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“I was hoping we wouldn’t have a letdown,” Gibson said. “Sometimes when you lose a player that has a big role on your team, the team comes out in shock a little bit. I was happy with the way we responded.”
Former Wolves player Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 21 points. Bobby Portis scored 15 off the bench.
The Wolves got stronger as the game progressed. After a tough second quarter in which they allowed the Bulls to score 38 points and finish the half with 62, the Wolves held the Bulls to 42 points, 41.5 percent shooting and just one made three-pointer in the second half.
“It was a long day for us,’’ Thibodeau said. “We struggled in the second quarter. But we were able to work through things in the second half. It was a good win for us.”