With Monday night's game against Sacramento on the line, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch played a lineup that included big men Karl Anthony-Towns and Naz Reid together in the frontcourt and point guards Ricky Rubio and D'Angelo Russell together in the backcourt during the final seven minutes.
The result was a deciding 34-24 fourth quarter in which Russell scored 12 consecutive points for his team while he and Towns combined for the Wolves' final 17 points in a 116-106 victory.
Afterward, Finch called the Towns-Reid pairing "really good" because it strengthened his team's play and rebounding in the paint and changed the floor's spacing. It also moved Towns to defend Kings power forward Harrison Barnes in a tactical change that Finch said left Barnes a "nonfactor" as well as scoreless in the fourth quarter after he scored 21 points in the first three.
Reid, meanwhile, defended center Richaun Holmes and ran the floor as the Wolves played on without injured guard Malik Beasley.
"It seems like we're always adjusting to something," Finch said. "We'll figure out a way."
Playing Russell off the ball beside Rubio transformed Monday's game after former Wolves coach Ryan Saunders had used the same pairing without great success early this season.
Call both pairings a bit of inspiration for a team that on Monday got Russell back two months after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and lost Beasley for four to six weeks because of a grade 3 hamstring injury.
"D-Lo just came back, we ain't have no practice for D-Lo, no 5-on-5," Towns said. "We just threw it out there to see if it worked. Coach Finch knows best. He made the right call."
Finch had No. 1 overall pick and Rookie of the Year candidate Anthony Edwards with those four players down the stretch before rookie Jaden McDaniels subbed for Reid in the final minute.
"When you have a lineup like that, that's a scary lineup," Towns said. "You pick your poison on that one. Someone is going to score the ball."
Russell was the one that did so explosively in Monday's fourth quarter, when Rubio handled the ball and Russell turned scorer off the ball. He also played without the ball Monday when Jordan McLaughlin handled it.
Asked about how he felt playing that role, Russell said, "It didn't feel like anything, just felt like I was playing basketball without the ball in my hands. I've been accustomed to just being a basketball player for so many years. If I was a [small forward], with the ball or without the ball, I feel like I'd still be effective."
Finch said he believes Russell can play both guard positions.
"In our system, ideally we'd like multiple handlers," Finch said. "I think he'll be able to play on or off the ball and be effective for us. I kind of like him off the ball, getting the ball into his hands early. It saves him some energy, particularly when he's working himself back into the game right now."
The Wolves have 21 games remaining, starting Wednesday at Indiana. Monday's victory was only the sixth game Russell and Towns have played together in Minnesota since Russell's trade from the Warriors to the Wolves in February 2020.
Finch called their fourth-quarter play a "glimpse into what we can be." These final games will be the longer look.
"Every game we value," Towns said. "Me and D-Lo on the court, you can see the vision we all had. When we're on the court, we can do special things. We can open the floor for everyone else. We can make Ant's job easier as well, give him more chances to do what he does and be special."
Russell considers the season's final weeks a ramp to next fall's training camp.
"It means a lot," Russell said. "We haven't had a normal training camp, so we're trying to use this time now to see what we got going into the summer and next season. We're are trying to take advantage of this time."
• Wolves and Lynx players and staff got COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday, according to both teams' Twitter feeds.