A cynic might suggest this is what a rested team should do, at home, against a team playing for the second time in two nights and for the third time in four:
Defend, run, score. Repeat ad nauseam.
But it was the way the Timberwolves did it Monday, back in the friendly confines of Target Center, where their 132-105 victory over Sacramento ended a four-game losing streak. Or, perhaps more specifically, who did it.
On a night when just about everything was going the Wolves’ way — they played so well that Kings coach Dave Joerger essentially raised the white flag in the first half by keeping his starters on the bench after the first quarter — it was the Wolves bench that led the way.
The Wolves were up 15 after a quarter when four Wolves reserves along with starter Robert Covington started the second quarter on a 22-5 run. By the time coach Tom Thibodeau put his starters back in, the Wolves were up 60-28, and even a klunky start to the third quarter couldn’t derail that momentum.
“Man, that was an amazing run to go on,” Covington said. “Guys just came in and did their job. That second unit’s been great all season. Tonight it was on another level.”
Teamwide, really. A franchise-record nine players scored in double figures, but nobody scored more than Andrew Wiggins’ 17 points. The team had a season-high 37 assists on 48 baskets. Four players finished with double-doubles. Karl-Anthony Towns (14 points, 14 rebounds) and Derrick Rose (13 points and 11 assists starting for injured Jeff Teague) had theirs by halftime. Taj Gibson (12 points, 10 boards) and Tyus Jones (10 points, 10 assists) eventually joined them.
And none of them, really, was the big star.
Give that nod to rookie Josh Okogie, who finished a team-best plus-33 in 27½ minutes and whose energy, in the second quarter, nearly blew off the Target Center roof.
“Just beyond, beyond,” Covington said. “Josh brings nonstop energy. That’s why his name is nonstop.”
Consider this stretch of play: Okogie stole the ball from Harry Giles and drove for a dunk. Then he blocked Troy Williams’ shot, eventually feeding Gorgui Dieng for a dunk. Moments later Okogie leapt high for an alley-oop pass from Jones and flushed it as the crowd of 12.417 roared. It was Okogie who got the standing ovation when he was subbed out later in the half.
“It’s great when you have that great momentum,” said Okogie, who scored 10 points with three assists and three rebounds. “Guys are making shots and we’re getting stops. I think the funnest part is turning our defense into offense. It gets us going.”
Okogie did that Monday. So did Jones, and Dario Saric and Dieng. All four were plus-27 or better. All scored in double figures, combining to hit 20 of 32 shots.
“You’re just making plays, going off your instincts,” Jones said. “Just feeding off one another.”
This season Target Center has been for the Wolves a refuge from the cruel road. Coming off an 0-4 swing out west, the Wolves are now 12-4 at home, 2-12 on the road and 0-11 on the road against Western Conference teams.
For the Wolves to climb back into the race in the Western Conference, that will need to change. Minnesota ends this short homestand by hosting Detroit on Wednesday. Starting Friday the Wolves will play six of seven games on the road.