Timberwolves fans returned to Target Center on Monday night for the first time in nearly 13 months.
Point guard D'Angelo Russell returned as well after nearly two months away in a 116-106 victory over Sacramento.
Russell hadn't played since he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after a Feb. 8 game at Dallas. Monday's return was only the sixth game he played alongside star center Karl-Anthony Towns since the Wolves acquired Russell in February 2020.
On a playing-time limit, Russell nonetheless provided the pulse in 24½ minutes and keyed the Wolves' fourth-quarter surge that turned the game.
He and Towns combined to score their team's final 17 points.
"It's exciting," said Wolves coach Chris Finch, who coached Russell for the first time in a game. "They're both really clever. They're able to read the defenses well. They're able to get their own shots and create them. It's a glimpse into what we can be."
Included in those final 17 Wolves points was a 12-0 run in which Russell made consecutive threes, forced a jump ball, won it and added a couple free throws.
Russell returned the same day the Wolves announced guard Malik Beasley will miss the next four to six weeks after a magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed a grade 3 left hamstring injury.
Beasley missed Saturday's game at Philadelphia due to left hamstring soreness. He had returned March 27 against Houston after serving a 12-game league suspension and played four games before injuring that hamstring.
Russell returned himself Monday for just that sixth time playing together with Towns.
"I didn't know how many games we played together; I know it was a short stint," Russell said. "But it felt good. When you put players out there that just know how to play basketball and try to take advantage of every opportunity each possession, more likely than not it's going to be a nice little vibe out there."
The Wolves trailed 93-92 with 8 minutes, 12 seconds left. By the time Russell made his two threes and did some of the dirty work, the Wolves led 104-93 with 5:22 left.
The Kings never got closer than four points again.
Russell scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. He played off the ball beside primary handler Ricky Rubio or Jordan McLaughlin.
"I thought he did a great job, I really did," Finch said. "He didn't try to force anything early. He was always going to be rusty finding his timing."
Russell returned to a team changed by a new coach and players' new roles.
In Monday's fourth quarter, big men Towns and Naz Reid played together, as did guards Rubio and Russell.
"It felt really good," Russell said. "Just watching the guys progress as fast as they have. The young guys, coach coming in and adding what he wants. I couldn't wait to get myself back involved and see where I can help as well. It has been smooth."
Fans hadn't attended a game since a March 8, 2020, home loss to New Orleans. Three days later, the NBA suspended its season because of the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, an audience announced at 1,436 fans was welcomed back masked and socially distanced in "pods" of two and four fans. Those fans returned to a "touchless" experience that included the same digital tickets the teams implemented in 2015 and now allows them to buy concessions by placing an order on their smartphones.
One fan was Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, whose office and state health department officials have allowed the Wolves, Wild and Twins to bring fans back for home games this week.
"I love it," Edwards said. "I love the fans. I was telling somebody last game, I love the Philadelphia fans even though they boo every time. I love the fans. They bring energy to the game."