Sometimes the best solution to a lethargic player is to infuse a bit of friendly competition. The Minnesota Timberwolves have struggled to get consistent play out of their roster, and much of the problem has been attributable to the fact that both power forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns and backup point guard Jordan McLaughlin have been nursing injuries for months. That has placed the team’s rotation and coaching staff in a difficult situation.
The Timberwolves entered the season already behind the eight-ball as the roster had no time to gel. But losing two key players after the season starter disrupted what little progress the team had made up to that point.
That all changed when the backup point guard Jordan McLaughlin was given the green light to play against the Denver Nuggets on February 5, nearly two months since his last basketball game. While that appeared to take the pressure off starting point guard D’Angelo Russell, it actually seemed to stoke the competitive fires.
Russell starts hot
In the first eight minutes of the Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves game, Russell had scored 13 of the Timberwolves’ 20 points. By the end of the game, he had 18 points. So what happened?
He remembered how to play point guard once more, dishing out 10 assists to record a rare double-double that was 18 points and 10 assists. So what happened to that hot start? Within the first five minutes of the game, the Timberwolves lost PF Kyle Anderson due to back spasms. Because Slo-Mo has been tasked with handling the floor general duties, the team had to revert to giving those duties back to D-Lo.
He handled the role admirably, as he was quite effective at getting the basketball to the open shooter. But the fact is that this all seems to be an either-or situation for the Timberwolves, who must choose to get much better offensive production out of Russell or task him as the facilitator at the expense of his ability to score.
In this game, Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch made the right call.