Jimmy Butler and Zach LaVine duke it out in Chicago
Jimmy Butler made his return to the Windy City for the first time since joining the Minnesota Timberwolves in a trade this offseason. He was met with a heartfelt tribute video, thoughtful fan-made signs and a warm round of applause.
The four-time All-Star was right at home again in the United Center and it didn’t take him long to start heating up. Butler made shots from all around the court and dropped 38 points on his former team, one point shy of his season-high.
Butler’s homecoming was nearly picture perfect, but the storybook ending to his impressive outing came up short as the Timberwolves lost 114-113 to the Chicago Bulls. His return was spoiled, but it wasn’t disappointing.
On the other side of the court, Zach LaVine, one of the marquee players involved in the Butler trade, took full advantage of his first matchup with his former employer. LaVine scored a season-high 35 points and matched Jimmy Buckets shot for shot in a back and forth shootout between the two squads.
The two-time Dunk Contest champion came up huge for the Bulls in crunch time, scoring every last one of Chicago’s final 11 points. After being hammered on a three-point attempt by Butler, LaVine sunk three free throws to push Chicago ahead 114-113 with 18.4 seconds left to play.
With a chance to win the game in its moments, Karl-Anthony Towns and Butler bricked their game-winning three point attempts and sent Minnesota home with another close loss. The T-Wolves held the lead for most of the game, but they lost control down the stretch and never rediscovered their early rhythm.
Minnesota may have lost the game, but Butler gave Bulls fans the kind of superstar performance they had grown so used to in his six seasons in Chicago. It is well known that Butler didn’t desire to be traded this past offseason, but at least for one more night he was able to show out for the incredible United Center crowd.
A win was expected for the Timberwolves, but without much help from their young stars Andrew Wiggins and Towns, Minnesota gave up a 17 point lead and their offense went stale in the third quarter. To add to the frustration, head coach Tom Thibodeau was handed a technical foul for yelling despite the fact his comments were meant for Towns and not the officials.
The Timberwolves have lost two straight tight games, including a tough overtime loss to the Cavs on a LeBron James buzzer-beater. Luckily for them, next up is the Sacramento Kings, a game that projects as an easy win and a nice place to start building some momentum as they head into the All-Star break.