MIAMI – Down the stretch in the Timberwolves’ 129-126 victory over the Heat, coach Ryan Saunders made a lineup decision he hasn’t made much since the Wolves acquired point guard D’Angelo Russell.
He played Russell and backup point guard Jordan McLaughlin together in the final minutes.
The move paid off, with McLaughlin scoring the go-ahead layup with 8.5 seconds to play.
Saunders said he made the move to help alleviate some pressure on Russell.
“They were blitzing D’Angelo in pick and rolls, trying to get the ball out of his hands,” Saunders said. “So I figured we’d get him off the ball a little bit, and Jordan is a good pick and roll player as well. He’s got a toughness about him, especially late in the games, he’s an unflappable guy.”
It continued a strong stretch of play for McLaughlin, who is on a two-way contract. McLaughlin is averaging 11 points and 5.3 assists over his last seven games.
“They were basically shadowing [Russell] and that’s why coach put me in the game to handle the ball, try and get him off the ball, maybe set pin downs for him and stuff like that,” McLaughlin said. “We tried doing that and we had the hammer screen where Jake slipped and got fouled [leading to two free throws that put the Wolves ahead 125-124. All the attention was focused on D-Lo, and it allowed us to get other options with me being the playmaker.”
McLaughlin has been doing a decent amount of that of late of the Wolves. The Wolves haven’t engaged McLaughlin in talks about solidifying his place on the roster permanently a source said, but McLaughlin has been making a strong case that he belongs in the NBA.