Timberwolves third-year point guard Tyus Jones waited 116 NBA games before he made his first career start Sunday at home in Target Center, not a half-hour from where he grew up.
Starter Jeff Teague missed his second consecutive game, and coach Tom Thibodeau chose to start Jones rather than veteran Aaron Brooks, who started Friday’s game against Miami because Thibodeau didn’t want to disrupt the second unit that Jones leads.
“That was something I’ve looked forward to, something I’ll remember,” Jones said. “Like I said, I’ve been a Timberwolves fan my whole life, so it’s something I’ll remember and cherish.”
He played nearly 39 minutes, set a career high for steals with seven and tied his for blocked shots with two. He also scored nine points and had four rebounds.
Jones said he didn’t know he had that many steals until an on-court interviewer told him so.
“My little brother gets on me all the time about how he’s a better defender than me,” Jones said, referring to Duke-bound and Apple Valley High star Tre Jones. “This is something I’ll hold over his head.”
While the Wolves played without both Teague and reserve forward Nemanja Bjelica for the second consecutive game, the Suns played without Devin Booker, who scored 35 points when the two teams played in Phoenix two weeks earlier.
Booker missed just one game a season ago, but it was because of the same big-toe inflammation that flared up Friday against New Orleans. He sat Sunday, hoping to resolve it quickly rather than let it bother him for a month as it did a year ago.
“He’s one of our best playmakers and one of our best scorers,” Suns interim coach Jay Triano said. “At the same time, we shot 50 percent and shared the basketball, so I’m not disappointed with how we played on the offensive end. We weren’t very good defensively.”
Proceeding with caution
Thibodeau said both Teague and Bjelica are “getting closer, but I’m not sure they’re there that.”
Teague said it’s important to be cautious with something as delicate as an Achilles’ tendon that started bothering him late in Wednesday’s victory over Orlando. Asked if it was painful, he said, “Just annoying.”
The Wolves consulted with the surgeon who performed foot surgery on Bjelica last March to ensure his current sprain in the same foot isn’t a troublesome reoccurrence. Thibodeau said he isn’t concerned.
“He’s good,” Thibodeau said, “but you just want to make sure.”
A no-nap Sunday
Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. start caused players to alter their usual game preparation.
That meant 18-year veteran Jamal Crawford didn’t get in his normal two-hour nap.
“We’re creatures of habit,” Crawford said. “I can’t function without a nap. I’ve played pretty well in early games over the years, but I don’t like them.”
• Thibodeau played big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Gorgui Dieng together to start both the second and fourth quarters against a tall Suns team. The two started alongside each other the past two seasons. “It felt like old times when we were out there,” Towns said. “We just played the way we know how to play with each other.”
• If Teague’s injury persists, Thibodeau said he’d consider Jimmy Butler or Crawford as backup point guard over little-played Brooks: “In fairness to Aaron, he’s just getting out there. But all options are open.”
• Towns when asked what he told former Kentucky teammate Tyler Ulis before a mismatched jump ball between the two: “Don’t be stupid. Let me win it and let’s be on our way.” Towns did.