Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler: Offense not a problem, but defense needs work

PHOENIX -- Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler spoke some hard truths about the present and potential future of his team after a disappointing 118-110 loss to the Suns on Saturday night.

"Offense will never be the problem all year long," Butler said. "All you're always going to hear about from us, from everybody else, is we're not playing any defense. That is our biggest letdown right now. And until we fix it, a lot of outcomes are going to be like this one."

The Timberwolves' defensive issues have been prevalent throughout the season. They currently rank 27th in the league, giving up an average of 108.8 points per 100 possessions. Compounding the issues for the Timberwolves on Saturday is that they were outscored 31-16 in the last 9:47 of regulation, allowing the Suns to go on a 14-0 run over a four-minute stretch late as the game got out of reach.

"The fourth quarter is defense," Timberwolves forward Taj Gibson said. "The offense is going to be there. We have a good offense, but we got to buckle down on defense."

Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau was noticeably frustrated about his team's late-game execution on both ends of the floor.

"You got to take good shots," Thibodeau said. "You got to execute, you got to set screens. You need everyone to do their job. If one guy's not doing their job, it's going to cost you, and it did."

Butler tried to take the blame for the defensive effort, especially after Suns guard Devin Booker feasted on him and the rest of the Timberwolves' defense to the tune of 35 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. But the Timberwolves' defensive issues have been an ongoing problem all year, something they haven't been able to fix up to this point.

"We're not making guys go to their weaknesses," Butler said. "We're too busy letting guys go to their strengths, and that's on me, man. [Booker] actually whipped my tail tonight. I wasn't up on shots. He got into where he wanted to get to on the floor. I got to be better on the defensive end. It starts with me."

After winning five straight games, the Timberwolves have now dropped two in a row in advance of Monday's game in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz. Gibson said Thibodeau was calm in his message to the team after getting blitzed in the second half of a Wednesday loss to the Golden State Warriors, but the tenor of that message seems to have changed Saturday. The Timberwolves had two days off in Phoenix, facing a Suns team that came into the game having lost five straight and on the second night of a back-to-back.

"He wanted that game," Gibson said of Thibodeau. "We wanted the game, but you could feel that we let one go. That was one game that you really don't want to lose, especially to a struggling team like that. You want to go in there and get the job done."