Jordan McLaughlin returns as Minnesota tops short-handed Nuggets
Minnesota outscored Denver by 16 points in McLaughlin’s 12 minutes en route to a 128-98 rout of the Nuggets.
MINNEAPOLIS -- He subbed into the game to a standing ovation, immediately drew an offensive foul on the defensive end and hit Naz Reid for an open 3-pointer on offense within his first 30 seconds of action.
For the first time in 30 games, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Jordan McLaughlin was back, and his impact was immediately felt.
Minnesota outscored Denver by 16 points in McLaughlin’s 12 minutes en route to a 128-98 rout of the Nuggets on Sunday at Target Center. That’s what the team’s net rating king does. He provided pace and played with juice. He instantly made teammates such as Jaylen Nowell — who’d been struggling of late — look more comfortable on the floor.
“He brings a pace to the game, gets off it early, makes all the right plays, competes his butt off on defense,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “It was good to see him back out there. We certainly missed him, but guys have done a great job in his absence.”
He also simply provided the team a second point guard behind D’Angelo Russell — a noted omission on the roster for the past two months.
“That’s what the league is about — multiple ball-handlers now. We all know how valuable J-Mac has been for us,” Finch said. “It’s nice to have another guy in the game who can control the game with the ball in his hands.”
McLaughlin did return in a game that can only be considered a soft-landing spot. Denver (37-17) is the top team in the Western Conference, but playing 22 hours after they competed at home in altitude, the Nuggets sat Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They’re also without reserve guard Bones Hyland, who continues to sit on the bench as his name swirls through endless trade talks.
So instead of those guys, the Wolves (29-27) did battle with the likes of Bruce Brown, Christian Braun, Vlatko Cancar and DeAndre Jordan. The two teams will again meet Tuesday in Denver in a contest that’s sure to feature a much fuller Nuggets lineup.
Minnesota ran roughshod on the depleted Nuggets from beginning to end Sunday, a welcomed departure from its previous tendency to underperform against seemingly inferior foes. Minnesota’s bench was cleared with more than four minutes to play.
D’Angelo Russell parlayed a 14-point first quarter into a double-double, with his 10th assist coming on a strike to Taurean Prince for a corner triple with five minutes to play. Rudy Gobert tallied 16 points and eight rebounds in just 18 minutes, as he dominated the Nuggets’ undersized interior for most of the night.
The only downside for Minnesota was that it again lost Kyle Anderson, who exited the contest with the same back spasms that have quite literally served as a thorn in his side all season.
Minnesota wrapped its difficult six-game homestand with a 4-2 record. Now the Wolves hit the road for four contests against the likes of Denver, Memphis, Utah and Dallas.
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