After missing 17 games with a torn meniscus, Jimmy Butler looks as if he hasn’t missed a beat.
Jimmy Butler was putting together a season that had his name in some MVP conversations. However, after tearing his meniscus against the Houston Rockets on February 23, his MVP season came to a halt.
While Butler’s MVP season took a sudden and drastic turn, and the Timberwolves went down with him. At times the team looked out of sorts and lacked intensity during games. In fact, there were a few occasions in which the Wolves lost winnable games that when looking back, costed them to an easier road to the playoffs.
For awhile, it looked as if the Wolves had the three seed locked up and the fact they are playing in a winner-take-all game for the eighth seed proves how costly Butler’s injury was to their season.
As the entire basketball world knows, Butler made his debut from injury on April 6, in Los Angles against the Lakers. Now that Butler is back the Wolves seem to be back on track and Butler looks as if he hasn’t missed a beat.
In his first two games back, Butler has played on a minute restriction. Against the Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies, Butler logged 23 minutes. Take a look how he has fared in each game:
@ Los Angeles Lakers
- 18 points (7-10 FG, 0-1 3P, 4-8 FT)
- 4 steals, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
- 1 turnover, 1 foul
Vs. Memphis Grizzlies
- 15 points (3-8 FG, 0-1 3P, 9-11 FT)
- 3 steals, 3 assists, 3 rebounds
- 1 turnover, 1 foul
Although those numbers are nothing compared to that of his season average, Butler’s presence has certainly paid off. Granted both wins came against non-playoff teams, however, the Wolves seemed to have revamped their intensity.
As for Butler’s intangibles, he has physically played as if he hadn’t missed the past 17 games with a serious injury.
If there were any concerns about the chance of him re-injuring his meniscus before, hopefully they are gone. Butler looks as if he could return to his normal shift of 37 minutes per game if not for the limit restriction. However, I do agree on not rushing him back, although they may have no choice but to play him at least 36 minutes against the Denver Nuggets for game 82.
The other result of his return is most important, the teams defense. In Butlers two games back the Wolves have given up less than 100 points both times, making them a top five defense once again. That trend needs to continue from Wednesday on in order for the Wolves to get to and advance in the playoffs, as they will play one of the more explosive offenses in the league.
Butler’s contributions on defense have been no different from what they were all season. He has simply been the court general for the entire team, still disrupting passes and causing havoc as usual.
Overall, Butler has lit a spark back into the Wolves during the most crucial moments of their season. Also, what a time for Butler to return and play at his normal level. In fact, he could have a Willis Reed or Curt Schilling type of moment. Think about it, Butler comes back from an injury with a minutes restriction, he plays full out in a must win game that gets the Wolves to the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.
Besides, with the magic the state of Minnesota has already seen this year in elimination games, Butler and the Wolves have the momentum.