WASHINGTON – If ever there was a time the Timberwolves needed the proverbial “team win” in their chase to make the playoffs, Tuesday’s 116-111 comeback victory at Washington was it.
And they got it in part to a 63-second performance from little-used backup center Cole Aldrich, who was called upon to finish the first half after Karl-Anthony Towns got thrown for a loop when he was hit hard in the head.
Until Tuesday, Aldrich had played 31 minutes in 15 games this season. Then Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau came calling after Wizards center Marcin Gortat’s shoulder thumped Towns’ head.
Aldrich took one shot, missed it and otherwise had zeros across his statistical line in an energetic performance that Thibodeau called so much more than nothing.
“Cole did a great job,” Thibodeau said. “It’s not easy to sit there like that and then go in. He made a really good play. He played good defense. It was great. That was big.”
Towns went to the scorer’s table to check back in before the end of the first half, but play continued and time ran out before he could re-enter the game.
So Aldrich played those last 63 seconds. He is being paid $7.3 million this season.
“Staying ready, that’s all you can do,” Aldrich said. “You never know. That’s what my job description is: Just go in and do your job. That’s what my job is to do. Be physical and do the best I can, whether you’re in for one minute or 25 minutes.”
Thibodeau said All-Star guard Jimmy Butler is progressing in his rehabilitation. He said Butler isn’t jumping yet, but is running on an antigravity treadmill and is expected to return to Minneapolis by week’s end.
“So he’s moving along pretty well,” Thibodeau said.
On the road again
The Wolves stayed in Washington after the game and will practice there Thursday before they fly to San Antonio for Saturday’s game rather than fly home for the three-day break in the schedule.
Thibodeau said he decided to split their time between the two cities rather than fly home to eliminate more time in the air.
“We’ve had so many miles, we’re just trying to look at ways we can cut it back,” he said.
Quick as they come
Newly signed Wolves guard Derrick Rose scored 20 points for Cleveland against the Wizards way back in early November.
“He had 18 in the first half against us,” Brooks said. “He was really good. He’s as quick as they come. He just has to stay healthy. … One thing about him, you know he has the mental toughness. He has had plenty of reasons to say, ‘You know what? It wasn’t meant to be.’ But he has always battled back. He competes. Even when he gets knocked down again, he comes back.”
Rose played 11 minutes but did not score in two stints Tuesday after he was a minus-17 in 6½ minutes in his Wolves debut Sunday against Golden State.
It’s that time of year again for Wolves assistant Ed Pinckney and Wizards assistant Sidney Lowe, both members of NCAA tournament Cinderella stories once upon a time.
When asked who he has in his bracket, Lowe said, “C’mon, the Wolfpack. Stranger things have happened.”
Yes, they have. Lowe played for North Carolina State in its epic upset of Houston in the 1983 title game.
• The 2015 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player while at Duke, Wolves point guard Tyus Jones didn’t need long to fill out the final game on his NCAA tournament bracket this year. “Duke, all the way,” he said. “That’s the first thing I did, write them in the championship block and then I figured out the rest.”