WASHINGTON — In the Timberwolves' win over Philadelphia on Saturday, coach Chris Finch put the ball in the hands of Anthony Edwards at the end of regulation when the Wolves had the final shot.
But as D'Angelo Russell hit shot after shot against the 76ers, the call for who ran the show at the end of the first overtime changed — the ball was Russell's. It was nothing against Edwards, Russell was just rolling.
"D-Lo was just in a better groove," Finch said after that game. "I felt confident he was going to be able to get off cleaner looks."
That resulted in Russell hitting a teardrop three at the end of the first overtime that looked like it was going to give the Wolves the win until Andre Drummond tipped in a missed free throw at the other end.
Then Monday against Indiana, Russell hit two baskets and assisted on a Malik Beasley three in the final minutes as the Wolves held off the Pacers at home.
Russell has been the player the Wolves have turned to in crunch time, and Russell has delivered in ways few in the NBA have this season.
Headed into Wednesday's matchup against Washington, no player has scored more points in clutch situations than Russell (43). The NBA defines clutch situations as a game with five minutes or fewer remaining and the score within five points.
"He has the ability to dribble to a spot and then get off a shot with a high arcing release that's almost unguardable at times," Finch said. "He has this knack for making tough shots which in clutch moments you have to be able to do."
But Finch said Russell's success in these situations isn't just his ability to hit shots. Defenses know Russell isn't going to force a shot if it isn't there and he's more than willing to give the ball up, like he did on the play to find Beasley against the Pacers. That makes it hard for defenses to crowd him.
"He'll usually make the right basketball play," Finch said. "And he has a great sense for the moment and being able to slow the game down in that moment."
Wolves battling illness
The Wolves still had multiple players affected by a flu-like illness that was not COVID as they began this two-game trip. Four players showed up on the injury report because of illness-related issues. Jaden McDaniels didn't make the trip, Finch said, which means he will most likely miss Friday's game in Brooklyn as well.
The other three names listed — Jarred Vanderbilt, Jaylen Nowell and Edwards — were all available to play. Vanderbilt returned to the lineup after missing Monday's game against Indiana.
Finch said he altered the Wolves' schedule in recent days to try and prevent the illness' spread.
The Wolves did not practice Tuesday and did not have a shootaround the morning before Wednesday's game.