Not one player can replace Jimmy Butler in the Timberwolves’ lineup. It sounds cliché, but it’s absolutely true.
One player who has noticeably stepped his game up has been forward Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica primarily played the 4 prior to Butler’s injury, but since, he’s bounced back between both forward spots.
In six games since Butler’s injury, Bjelica has played 37.7 minutes per game while averaging 13.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while shooting an efficient 50 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from the 3-point line.
“I’m trying to stay ready to take care of my body,” Bjelica said after Tuesday’s shootaround. “ . . . We have 14 more games before playoffs . . . We have (a) good atmosphere on the team.”
On March 8 against the Celtics, Bjelica put up a career-high 30 points rebounds. Three nights later he had an all-around performance of 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in a huge win over the Warriors.
“Just the versatility,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The length is important I think in terms of challenging shots. Rebounding and the shooting opens up the floor.”
Bjelica will hope to keep that up tonight as the team takes on the Wizards in Washington. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on Fox Sports North, NBA TV and 830 WCCO.
The Wolves are hoping to carry over their momentum from Sunday’s win over the Warriors. Minnesota sits at 39-29, sixth in the West, 0.5 games back from the four seed and 1.5 games up on 10th place.
“Anyone who’s looking at the West right now knows it’s very tight,” Andrew Wiggins said. “So, very game counts. Every game’s a big game.”