Ricky Rubio, after missing five games because of a sprained right elbow, returned to practice Friday and might play Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Timberwolves point guard, injured in the team's second game, was listed as questionable for Saturday's game. But coach Tom Thibodeau indicated Rubio could be ready.
"He had a good day today,'' Thibodeau said. "He moved great. I didn't get a chance to talk to him yet since practice ended, but he practiced very well.''
The Wolves, who started 0-2, are 2-3 without Rubio. That included a home-opening victory over Memphis on Nov. 1 and Wednesday's 123-107 victory in Orlando.
With rookie Kris Dunn starting in Rubio's place — which gave the Wolves a starting five with four players aged 22 or younger — and Tyus Jones coming off the bench, the Wolves offense continued to produce. The 123 points scored in Orlando marked the team's highest in a non-overtime game since March of 2014. And the Wolves return from their three-game road trip as the most efficient three-point-shooting team in the league.
Still, Rubio's veteran presence has been missed, Thibodeau said.
"Just the way he can push the ball,'' he said. "His decisionmaking and team defense. He's all over the place. He brings a lot of energy. In transition, he's such a good decisionmaker. He gets you a lot of easy baskets. And he knows how to move the ball around. That's probably what we missed the most. I thought Kris had some good moments for us, and Tyus did as well.''
Finding an even keel
The Wolves struggled with consistency both with and without Rubio, often blowing big first-half leads and struggling through unproductive third quarters.
Dunn averaged 4.4 points and 4.6 assists in the five games Rubio missed. But, after scoring 10 points in the first of those games, a victory over Memphis, he scored just 12 points in the subsequent four games. Indeed, in the final two games of the three-game road trip, Dunn's minutes dropped to 15:40 against Brooklyn and 17:28 against Orlando after he played at least 28 minutes in each of the first three games that Rubio was injured.
That slack was picked up by Jones, whose contributions rose. He played more than 30 minutes in each of the Wolves' past two games, stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals at Brooklyn. In Wednesday's victory in Orlando he had 10 points with five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
"He was ready to play," Thibodeau said of Jones. "I thought he did a good job of keeping us organized, pushing the ball up the floor. And that's what his job is. He has to stay ready. He's great for us in practice. He's a terrific practice player. And he did a good job.''
But Rubio's return could help with team defense, which continues to struggle. In the past four games, which includes three losses, Minnesota is giving up 110 points per game and 50 percent shooting. The Wolves are 28th in the league in points allowed in the paint (50.6).
"It was awesome to see him back," Karl-Anthony Towns said. "We missed him. We miss his presence, even off the court.''
Said Shabazz Muhammad: "He looked sharp. I told him it looks like he hasn't missed a beat.''
• Thibodeau said Muhammad's versatility and aggressive mind-set are behind his recent rise in playing time. He has scored in double figures off the bench in two of the past three games.
• With two uncles who served in the military, Towns said Veterans Day is important in his family. "It means a lot to have a chance to celebrate the true heroes,'' he said.