Not long after the Wolves had rallied, twice, to beat a banged-up Miami Heat team Monday night, Anthony Edwards — who scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half as the Wolves rallied from down 14 points — was asked what the biggest reason was for the second-half surge.
"Jordan McLaughlin, pretty much,'' Edwards said. "Yeah, he gave us the energy we needed.''
One of the more encouraging things to come out of that 105-101 victory — the Wolves' fourth straight — was the play of the team's backup point guard.
Everybody knows what McLaughlin can do. He can get an offense humming by pushing the pace and moving the ball. He does all sorts of little things that aren't seen in a box score.
But, before Monday, he had struggled mightily with his shot.
Not for a lack of trying.
"I'm trusting my work,'' he said after the game, in which he had hit four of five three-pointers — his first game this season hitting more than one — and scored 12 points. "I put a lot of work in this offseason. First couple of games, I wasn't shooting it too great. But just continue to trust my work. Every single day in there getting up shots, looking at film, seeing how I'm missing my shots.''
Monday they started to fall.
Down 14 early in the third, the Wolves had already rallied to within four when McLaughlin entered the game with 5:47 left.
Right away Edwards soared high to block a shot by Max Strus, then hit a step-back three at the other end. Moments after that Jaden McDaniels hit a three to tie the game.
And then, McLaughlin: With 4:01 left in the quarter he hit a 25-foot three to give the Wolves their first lead of the second half. Less than a minute later he took a pass from Karl-Anthony Towns and drained another 25-footer. After a Miami miss, McLaughlin took a pass from Jaylen Nowell and hit another three, putting the Wolves up eight with 2:35 left in the quarter.
Nine points in less than two minutes, and the Target Center crowd gave him a standing ovation.
"We all know, this is JMac,'' Wolves coach Chris Finch said. "JMac plays winning basketball all the time. He makes a team really hum. His shot has not been going in so far. But when he got the ball moving and got the ball back in the flow, it looked the way he finished last season, with the confidence he had in his stroke. An absolute game-changer.''
Before Monday, McLaughlin had made only three of 24 three-point attempts. Monday his 12 points marked his first double-figure game of the season. And the fans responded.
"I always appreciate it,'' McLaughlin said. "Appreciate the fans here, they've vouched for me since Day 1. I just go out there and play hard and that's what they want to see. So, just playing hard and they love it.''
Now the challenge is to make this a trend. Given McLaughlin's playmaking abilities, he's always going to be a valuable part of the Wolves' second unit. If he were a reliable scoring threat, would only mean he'd make more of an impact.
"It's a long season,'' he said. "We're only  game in. So, still got 60-plus to go. You just got to stay confident.''