After Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie was a late scratch because of potential COVID exposure prior to Wednesday's 128-108 loss to the Mavericks, coach Chris Finch had to shift his starting lineup and defensive responsibilities.
Okogie was going to start and draw the matchup against All-Star Luka Doncic. But with Okogie unavailable (the team said he is undergoing further precautionary testing) that assignment fell to rookie Jaden McDaniels.
McDaniels did more than OK in a pinch, as Doncic had just 15 points on 6 of 16 shooting. Well below Doncic's lofty standards. The Wolves were keyin on Doncic and made sure to give McDaniels ample help (Kristaps Porzingis, who had 29, benefited in part from this), but McDaniels made his mark.
"He did a great job, really got into him," Finch said. "He used his length, made it tough for him. … Even though the whistle was going against him at times, he still kept hanging in there and battling. He's got special defensive talents. He's not afraid to guard. He's got good length and he's not afraid to use it. He competes with his feet. He's going to be a really, really good defender in this league."
Karl-Anthony Towns said he told McDaniels he "made some money" Wednesday.
That's fitting because multiple teams have asked about McDaniels in potential trades the Wolves might want to pull off. The Wolves might have easier paths to making moves if they made McDaniels more available. But the Wolves value McDaniels highly and his performance against Doncic showed why.
"Late scratch by J.O. and now [McDaniels] has to come in and prove himself and he did just that," Towns said. "He guarded one of the best players in the league right now and did a hell of a job making life really difficult for him."
Rebounding a challenge
The Mavericks defeated the Wolves in part because they defeated the Wolves so thoroughly on the glass. The Mavericks had 22 second-chance points and outrebounded the Wolves 52-37 on the night. Jalen Brunson, at 6-1, had 11 rebounds. Finch said the Wolves gave up a number of long rebounds but there wasn't any excuse for giving up so many.
"We just didn't get engaged in the play," Finch said.
Added Ricky Rubio: "A lot of them we were just watching,'" guard Ricky Rubio said. It's not that it really worked for them or that they did something. It was more on our end to really go out there and put our bodies out there."