Wolves' Jimmy Butler available but doesn't play vs. Nuggets

DENVER -- Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler was available, even though he didn't play, in Thursday's pivotal matchup against Denver after missing the previous 16 games because of a right knee injury.

With Butler on the bench, the Nuggets held on for a 100-96 win that lifted them into a tie, record-wise, with Minnesota for the eighth playoff spot with three games left. Both teams are a half-game behind New Orleans.

Butler recently told reporters he was "this close" to a return but was considered doubtful for the game.

Butler has been out since suffering a knee injury on Feb. 23 at Houston. He had surgery two days later to repair his meniscus and has steadily been working his way back.

The Wolves are 8-9 since Butler was sidelined. He's averaging 22.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists.