Disgruntled guard Jimmy Butler was greeted with boos before Minnesota’s home opener, but soon won the fans over as he led the Timberwolves to a 131-123 victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.
Butler, who has demanded a trade amid reports of dissatisfaction with some of his younger team-mates and is making it known that he will not re-sign with the team, scored 33 points added seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
By the midpoint of the second quarter, fans were chanting “MVP” when Butler came to the foul line.
Andrew Wiggins pitched in with 22 points and Anthony Tolliver hit three 3-pointers off the bench to bolster a vintage all-around effort by the four-time All-Star Butler.
Kevin Love had 25 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists for the Cavaliers.
Minnesota held a 104-95 lead entering the final quarter but the Cavaliers brought it back to within 121-117 with 4:02 remaining.
The Cavaliers could not get closer and Butler scored to make it a six-point margin with 24.2 seconds left, then added two free throws with 13.5 seconds to close it out.
“I knew as soon as I made an effort play, it was going to turn into cheers,” Butler said.
“I like it, though. Like I told you, ‘It’s OK to boo me. I’m still going to play hard. I’m still going to try to my best to help win games. Boos, cheers, silence, I’ve got a job to do.”
“That’s the NBA. He loves it,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The important thing is to get the win. With fans, there’s going to be an appreciation for a guy who puts forth that type of effort.”
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(c) Sky News 2018: Jimmy Butler booed then cheered in Wolves home opener