MINNEAPOLIS -- Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler proved in Sunday's 112-106 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers to be the closer his new team hoped he'd be when it made a draft-night trade to acquire him last summer.
Butler rescued the Wolves from a loss and embarrassment by scoring 20 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter alone.
By doing so, he brought the Wolves from three points behind with fewer than eight minutes to play to beat a depleted Clippers that was missing star Blake Griffin and three other starters because of injury.
"Sadly as it is, we just outscored them once again," Butler said in an on-court, post-game interview. "A win is a win, but I want us to play some defense one of these games."
Butler's scoring carried the Wolves to a 110-103 lead in the final minute, but the Clippers refused to go quietly.
Austin Rivers' 30 points that included seven three-pointers made and Lou Williams' 23 points off the bench -- including a 3-pointer with 30.2 seconds left -- wouldn't let them until the bitter end.
The Wolves hung on, giving coach Tom Thibodeau career win No. 300.
The Clippers played without Griffin, who last Monday against the Lakers sprained a knee ligament that could keep him sidelined for the next two months.
They also played without fellow starters Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic, all of whom are out injured as well.
So instead the Clippers started two players on two-way contracts between the NBA and G League -- rookie forward Jamil Wilson and former Wolves' summer-league invitee C.J. Williams -- alongside Rivers, big man DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Johnson, the former Timberwolves' lottery pick.
With the Clippers' projected starting lineup in shambles, Rivers stepped forth and made seven of his first eight 3-point attempts Sunday.
He had scored those 21 of his 30 points from 3-point range, but only one in a fourth quarter when Butler took over with his scoring late.
Just Saturday afternoon, Dallas clobbered the Clippers 108-82 and won for just the sixth time in 23 games.
On Sunday night, the Wolves never led by more than eight points and only led 31-27 after one quarter, 60-55 at halftime, 78-76 after three quarters.
They also trailed 89-86 with 7:52 remaining after Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell's backdoor cut for a layup gave them their biggest lead of the night until then.
The Clippers had never led by more than two points before that.
(c)2017 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.