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Jimmy Butler erupted in December, especially in crunch time

Butler is making a serious campaign for Player of the Month after ending 2017 on a high note.

Jimmy Butler scored 39 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and three-point range in Minnesota’s 128-125 win over Denver on Wednesday. Twelve of his points came in overtime, and when he stuck a fork in the Nuggets by way of a pull-up mid-range jumper over Jamal Murray, Butler had a message for the young gun trying to guard him:

Most of the league hasn’t been able to f*** with Jimmy Butler recently

After he averaged just 16.2 points in October and 17.9 points in November, the Wolves swingman is averaging 27 points per game in December, which is somehow only the ninth-best scoring output in the league this month. His 39-point barrage against the Nuggets was the sixth time he’s scored 30 or more points on the year, all coming in this month.

And it’s his performance in the clutch that sets him apart.

Jimmy G Buckets has been an assassin in crunch time. At 4.4 points per game, he’s the second-highest scorer — behind LeBron James — in the final five minutes of games decided by five or fewer points (or overtime).

In December alone, Butler leads the NBA at 6.3 points per game in the clutch.

His 12 points in OT against Denver prove as much, but he’s had other big games down the stretch, too.

Butler had 37 points in Minnesota’s 108-107 nail-biting win against Portland, but the Timberwolves would have lost had he not calmly netted two free throws to give his team the lead. Those foul shots were two of his 10 points in the final 5:31 against the Trail Blazers, and the Wolves needed every one of his baskets to drop.

And who could forget Jimmy Buckets going absolutely bananas to the tune of 20 points in the final seven minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers. Twenty points in seven minutes. That doesn’t even make sense.

But it makes sense if you ask the people around him

After he went off for 20 in the fourth quarter against the Clippers, Jamal Crawford said Butler is simply all about winning games.

“He was unbelievable,” Crawford said. “The thing about Jimmy is he doesn’t play with an agenda. He’s a winner. And if they called for him to pass, he would have passed the ball. He’s just all about winning.”

And after his big-time performance against the Nuggets on Wednesday, Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau gushed over the player he traded for — the one he coached back in Chicago before leaving and eventually joining Minnesota.

“I’ve been saying it all year,” he said. “I hope everyone is recognizing how special he is. He’s changed everything for us. Big play after big play. Guards everyone. Hustle plays, tough rebounds in traffic. Passes, shots, free throws: everything. ... He has an unbelievable will to win, and that’s what makes him so special. So when his best is needed, he’s always at his best. Always been that way, and that’s not gonna change.”

Butler has been at his best in December, and the Timberwolves are the beneficiaries of his ridiculous numbers. Minnesota is 22-13, just two games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the third seed in the West.

And if Butler plays for the rest of the year the same way he has in December, the rest of the West might need to watch its collective back come playoff time.