MINNEAPOLIS — Jimmy Butler and the new additions are meshing quickly with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, creating good feelings for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.
A roster without many new faces in is struggling to find its way for the Dallas Mavericks, who visit the Timberwolves on Saturday night.
Minnesota (5-3) has won three games in a row after Wednesday’s 104-98 win in New Orleans and is 5-1 with Butler in the lineup. Butler is averaging 17.3 points and the Timberwolves own a top-10 scoring offense at 108.8 points per game.
“This is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Wiggins told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Dallas lost its fifth straight game by shooting 38.9 percent in a 99-94 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. While the Timberwolves are tied with Utah for first in the Northwest Division, the Mavericks are a league-worst 1-9, their worst 10-game start since the 1993-94 season.
Dallas is averaging 97.8 points, which makes it the third-worst scoring offense. The Mavericks also own a 41.5 field-goal percentage, which is the second-worst in the league.
“Losing is never fun, especially (for) an organization that’s used to winning, a lot,” Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki told the Dallas Morning News. “Going 10 years or whatever winning 50 games, it’s been tough. But it’s way too early to give up. You got to keep grinding.
“The schedule is extremely tough in November, but we got to keep grinding and try to keep finding schemes and lineups that work best. When you’re losing, you got to keep searching until you get some wins and figure some things out.”
Not much was figured out on Friday as the Mavericks couldn’t handle New Orleans’ big frontcourt duo of Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. Davis had 30 points and 13 rebounds. Cousins added 20 points and 22 boards.
Meanwhile, the starting lineup continued shifting as Nerlens Noel started at center to try and combat the Pelicans size. The tactic didn’t work was scoreless in 13:28 and was a minus-18.
Now Dallas has to do battle with Towns, who’s averaging a team-high 21.4 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. Towns might have better numbers but he is coming off a two-point night Wednesday.
Towns has also stepped up recently on the defensive end with nine blocks in the past three games.
Minnesota will try for its fourth straight win, which the Wolves haven’t accomplished since Dec. 7-15 2012. The Wolves will try to improve to 6-3 for the third time since 2004 when they last made the playoffs.
“There are certain things you have to guard against,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told the Star Tribune. “Human nature is, you exhale. And you can’t. Not in this league. You have to bring it every day. That’s the best part about the league, the challenge.”
With Butler taking the lead late, Minnesota is winning close games. Four of its victories have come in one-possession games. Butler’s long jumper with 34 seconds left snapped a tie against New Orleans on Wednesday and Butler scored the final six points of the game.
“I wish we hadn’t put ourselves in that situation,” Butler told the Star Tribune. “We have the lead, we have to get better building on that lead. But we’ll get better as a group, as a team. As long as we won, by one, by 10, by 12 — it goes on the ‘W’ column.”
Plenty have gone in the win column for the Wolves lately, not so for the Mavericks.