He only played a bit more than six minutes, about half a quarter. But Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved made the most of it.
Shved entered the game for Ricky Rubio about two minutes into the second quarter of Wednesday’s 120-109 victory over Portland at Target Center. When he entered the game the Wolves had started the quarter strong, turning a nine-point lead into an 18-point edge.
Over the next six-plus minutes Shved was active and aggressive. He fed Kevin Love for a three-pointer, then tossed an alley-oop for a Dante Cunningham slam followed by a driving, soaring one-handed slam of his own. By the time Shved left the game, the Wolves’ lead had grown to 29 and he had four points on 2-for-3 shooting with three assists, two rebounds and a steal.
“He was really active,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “He really ran the floor. But he played good the other night, too. I think he’s waking up.”
For much of the season Shved has struggled, both with his shot and, seemingly, with his confidence. His shooting percentage was south of 30 percent, and he was part of a second unit that struggled way too often.
Perhaps that is changing. Over his past four games, Shved has made nine of 19 shots — going 4-for-9 on three-pointers — with six assists and zero turnovers.
“I feel much better right now,” Shved said.
The question is, if Shved is waking up, who set the alarm clock?
Shved said a few strong practices helped his confidence. That translated into the games, and now he appears to be getting back to the effective guard off the bench Adelman has been looking for.
“He has talents that a lot of our guys don’t have — his size, his quickness, his passing ability,” Adelman said. “But he’s got to be aggressive on both ends of the court.”
To Adelman, it is no coincidence that, like Shved, the bench has played better lately.
“He can set the tone for that,” he said.
Adelman said a key for Shved is to continue to learn how to play without the ball.
The good news to come out of forward Chase Budinger’s return to practice Thursday was that his surgically repaired left knee felt good.
The rest of his body? Not so much.
“I wasn’t thinking about it very much,” Budinger said of his knee. “I was more just thinking how tired my legs got out there, how my shot became short and my legs and my quads and my feet were burning.”
No timetable has been set for Budinger’s return to action. But at this point, the biggest hurdle to overcome might not be the knee. It might instead be trying to get the rest of his body reintroduced to the rigors of the game.
“We’ll see [Friday] how my knee feels, how the rest of my body feels,” Budinger said. “But the biggest thing I felt [Thursday] was the bottom of my feet. Halfway through out there, my feet were starting to burn.”
• The Wolves benefited Wednesday from facing a Portland team playing its fourth game in five nights. Friday in Los Angeles, the Wolves will play a Lakers team without superstar Kobe Bryant. Only six games into his return from a torn left Achilles’ tendon that ended his 2012-13 season, Bryant suffered a fracture in his left knee Tuesday against Memphis. He will be out six weeks.
• Both Kevin Martin (sore knee) and Cunningham (ankle), who played through their injuries Wednesday, were able to take part in all of Thursday’s practice.