Jaylen Nowell is in his second season with the Timberwolves but Saturday's 125-121 loss to Portland marked the first time in his career Nowell was out on the floor in the final moments of a close game.
Nowell had one goal during that situation.
"I just wanted to make sure that I didn't do anything dumb," Nowell said.
He said he didn't quite make it, when he didn't attempt a three-pointer late and instead took the ball to the rim for a layup to put the Wolves down four with 4.2 seconds remaining.
"I definitely learned from this one and the next situation I will execute way better," Nowell said.
But overall Saturday continued Nowell's strong play coming out of the All-Star break. He has handled point guard duties on the second unit with D'Angelo Russell and Jordan McLaughlin's absences leaving the Wolves thin at that position. He had 17 points off the bench and helped the Wolves take their first lead since early in the game 94-93 as they were headed into the fourth quarter.
Nowell said the All-Star break helped him recharge.
"I was definitely rejuvenated," Nowell said. "I need that break, especially because my hometown [Seattle], we don't have a team anymore. They left when I was like 9. So we don't go there often. Me personally, I was able to go back home and see friends, family. I definitely needed that. It was a long first half for me, especially being in quarantine, going to these other places and having people that I know there and not being able to see them."
Nowell has looked refreshed on the court, confident in his shot and has been able to find it from different spots. He said playing with the bench unit and playing with the starters didn't affect his mindset too much.
"I'm just focused on being aggressive whenever I catch it, making sure I can make a play," Nowell said. "The one difference that I might say would be when I'm initiating offense, making sure I get guys in spots, making sure I keep the ball moving, making sure the ball doesn't get stagnant. That's probably the only difference when I'm in with that second unit rather than the first."
If he keeps playing like he has been, he may get more chances to run with the ones.
Juancho returns to rotation
It has been a tough season for Juancho Hernangomez, who had to be away from the team for an extended period because of COVID protocols and fell out of the rotation upon his return. But coach Chris Finch turned to Hernangomez in the first half on Saturday night and Hernangomez responded with 10 points and eight rebounds.
"If the coach calls my name, I have to be ready," Hernangomez said. "I love basketball too much to not be ready. I'm working hard every single day to be ready when you get a chance, and that's my only mindset."
Finch said he turned to Hernangomez for "energy" after the Wolves had a sloppy start.
"It was more about the energy," Finch said. "I thought we just were a little flat in the first half and I knew Juancho would bring some bounce and he did on the boards, in transition and obviously the ability to knock down a shot."