Jimmy Butler shines as Wolves send Thunder to third straight loss

Jan 8 2018 Minneapolis MN USA Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones dribbles in the third quarter against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas at Target Center. Mandatory Credit Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Life is good if you're a Minnesota Timberwolves fan.

The game was tied after the first quarter (23-23) and again at halftime (47-47).

"When you're trying to make improvements, it never just goes like a smooth (line) all the way up", Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan told the Norman Transcript after the loss. But having a "big three" doesn't matter much when two of the three can't hit a shot. Carmelo Anthony barely did any better (5-19; 15 points).

The Oklahoma City Thunder overhaul is still showing signs of being green. Everyone not named Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 17-56.

Westbrook fell one rebound shy of his third straight double-double with 22 points and 12 assists.

Jimmy Butler has been one of the best scorers in the league since the start of December.

Harrison Barnes had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Yogi Ferrell made seven 3-pointers and scored 22 points, and visiting Dallas fended off Charlotte.

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Karl Anthony Towns chipped in 18 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh consecutive double-double. The first ended on an Andrew Wiggins buzzer-beater from well beyond the 3-point line that banked in mere moments after Carmelo Anthony hit what appeared to be the game victor on the other end.

If the season series is any indication, we'd be in for a treat - each of the three previous meetings were decided by fewer than five points.

Then the Wolves beat New Orleans at home and led by as many as 34 points, a season-high mark to that point.

If he's not an All-Star in a month from now, we should probably cancel the All-Star Game.

Teague returned to practice wearing a brace on his knee and worked out on the court before the team announced he would play. Because both teams were dealing with new rosters, it was a feeling-out process.

Most recently, Minnesota has blown out the Cavs and run away from the Thunder in back-to-back games to prove that they are a legitimate contender.

Should they keep the scoring up along with the defensive pressure, it is not hard to imagine them making it to the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

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