For personal reasons, point guard Ricky Rubio — who missed the second half of the Wolves’ victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday — will not play against Denver on Sunday night at Target Center.
Rubio’s brother Marc posted on Instagram that their grandmother had died.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said Rubio, who has been the subject of trade speculation in the national media in recent days, is OK physically and is expected to return late Sunday night and rejoin the Wolves on Monday.
And that means Wolves fans will see a lot of Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones on Sunday. Given the way the two played down the stretch in Los Angeles, that could be a good thing.
Jones played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game.
When both teams went to smaller lineups over the final six minutes of the game, Dunn joined Jones on the floor in the backcourt, with Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins at forward and Karl-Anthony Towns at center.
That lineup provided nice spacing for the Wolves offense, resulting in a lot of opportunities for Towns.
“It’s having a small at the 4,” Thibodeau said. “It opens up the floor. So Kris has the ability to play two positions. He can defend three positions, actually. So you can use him in that way.
“And then you have multiple guys who can run in pick-and-rolls. It gives you different options.”
For Jones, who has watched more than played this season, it is another opportunity. For Dunn, forced into the starting lineup for five games when Rubio was injured early in the season, it is an opportunity see how much he has grown since then.
“I’m way more prepared,” Dunn said.
“I think just because there have been way more games from then to now. I’m starting to understand who I am as a player, what my role is on the team. Just figuring out guys, their tendencies and trying to understand coach’s philosophy.”
For both Dunn and Jones, being big parts of Thursday’s victory — the Wolves’ first this season in a game decided by four points or fewer — is also a confidence boost.
“It was fun,” Jones said of playing with Dunn. “Having two ballhandlers out there, it can put pressure on the other team. It allows us to get into our offense. We have two guys who can set us up.
“We were encouraging each other, telling each other each time down we were going to win the game. I think it’s good for our confidence, the way we came back.”
It helped that Towns, who scored 15 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter of the game, was on fire. But, going against a very good defender in DeAndre Jordan, the spacing the small lineup provided had to help. And Towns responded by displaying all his scoring skills, scoring on a put-back dunk, two free throws, a drive for a dunk, a three-pointer and two midrange jumpers sandwiched around a 9-foot hook.
Jones had three assists on Towns baskets in the fourth quarter. Dunn and Wiggins each had one.
“That’s what every player wants, to be in tight games,” Dunn said. “The fact Coach trusted me to be out there gave me confidence.”
And a half-season has, according to Dunn, made him a more mature player.
“I understand there will be ups and downs, with minutes, playing time,” he said. “I just try to go out and improve. The ups and downs will come, you just have to be mature about it.”