One of the positives to come out of the Timberwolves' 118-111 loss to the Kings on Monday was Jaden McDaniels hitting another clutch shot in a big moment.
McDaniels hit the tying three-pointer that sent the game to overtime with 13.5 seconds remaining. That came after McDaniels hit two important jumpers in a 111-102 win at New Orleans a few nights before that.
After Monday's game, his teammates were joking with him that he didn't smile after hitting such a big shot.
"I don't know, hopefully one day you'll see Jaden with some emotion," guard D'Angelo Russell said. "It'll keep going for him, with or without the emotion. You can see him adding to his game and trying to capitalize on that."
The lack of outward emotion isn't disinterest, however. Russell agreed with the characterization that McDaniels can be "fiery." Coach Chris Finch said McDaniels is "super competitive."
"It's there. It's always boiling away under the surface," Finch said. "He does a good job of channeling it in the right direction. It's one thing I love about him. He can sometimes be hard on himself because he demands a lot of himself, but it always comes from a place of being super competitive. It has to be with the way we ask him to guard and who we ask him to guard."
His teammates have been trying to campaign for him to be a candidate for the All-Defensive team, sometimes interrupting his interviews to make a point to say he should be considered.
Part of his intensity shows up when he's guarding some of the other team's best players and he gets what he thinks is an undeserved foul. But on the whole, McDaniels has kept it cool, even when he might not be behind his eyes.
"The fact he is able to move his feet at his size, with his length, is impressive, man. He's really impressed me," guard Austin Rivers said. "For him, it's all mental. He's a very quiet guy, very in his own shell. We're just continuing to get him to break out of that and just trust himself and be confident, be animated. I like his emotion when he's involved. When he plays well, we usually win."
Examining their options
After the Kings beat the Wolves with a small lineup in overtime, players were wondering about what kind of personnel they might need in a situation like that. One question that came up, should center Rudy Gobert be on the floor in such situations? Finch tried to shut down that notion by telling the team that, according to their numbers, the Wolves have the best defensive rating in the league when Gobert is on the floor and 28th when he's off it.
"A lot of the breakdowns that happened were less about having Rudy on the floor and more about having guys out there who were not able to contain the ball, which forced a chain reaction of things which we weren't super sharp at," Finch said.
Gobert was out of Wednesday's lineup because of lingering right groin soreness. He had played in the previous five games after missing three games because of the same injury.
No seconds, please
An odd thing happened for the Wolves on their way to an 11-5 record in January.
They didn't improve their defensive rebounding even though they improved their winning percentage. The Wolves remained near the bottom of the league in defensive rebounding percentage at .680, which was 29th in the league.
But the unusual thing was how many second-chance points the Wolves allowed — 12.2, which ranked seventh. For the season, the Wolves are 18th in second-chance points allowed and 28th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Was the amount of second-chance points they allowed in January sustainable, or just a fortunate statistical blip for them?
"I don't know, there might be some luck involved in that one," Finch said. "I haven't really dug into that too much. Hopefully we can just rebound a little better. Having Rudy out there gives you a second chance of anything at the rim."