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Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler active but does not play vs. Denver Nuggets

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler was available to play Thursday night in a key matchup against Denver after missing 16 games with a right knee injury.

However, Butler did not play against the Nuggets, who held off the Timberwolves 100-96 and pulled into tie with the Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters on Thursday that Butler is close to a return.

“It’s been good,” Thibodeau said. “Step by step. Each day he’s done a little more. The contact was good … He’s real close. Whether it’s today or tomorrow … he’s real close.”

Perhaps Butler will make his return to the lineup on Friday against the Lakers after missing the last month because of a meniscus injury in his knee. The Wolves are 8-9 since Butler was injured Feb. 23.

The Wolves close the regular season with two home games: Monday vs. Memphis and a possible elimination game Wednesday vs. Denver.