– The Timberwolves might not have shown it in Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks. But Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, having seen the Wolves twice in the past week, is convinced good things are ahead for Minnesota.

“When we were there last week, I was asked about their team, how they’d lost some games,” Carlisle said. “My comment was this is a team that is getting ready to explode. You could just see the talent, they’re very close in a lot of areas.”

The Wolves entered Sunday’s game on a three-game winning streak, one the Mavericks ended.

“The three wins they had, they beat us,” Carlisle said. “And we’re not a great team record-wise, but we have veterans and our guys are trying their butts off. And they handled Houston relatively easily and pretty much the same with Oklahoma City. So, they’re a team on the rise. The things Tom [Thibodeau, Timberwolves coach] is doing with them is starting to take hold.”

This even though the Wolves, having taken three steps forward, took a step back in a 98-87 loss at American Airlines Center.

“We’re still not there,” Thibodeau said. “We went into camp with that idea, of locking into daily improvement. Studying the team clsely in the offseason, I knew there were a lot of areas we were short in. … I like the direction we’re moving in. There is still a long way to go for us.”

LaVine back in action

Zach LaVine played Sunday after missing the previous two games because of a hip injury suffered in the fourth quarter of the Wolves’ victory over Dallas at Target Center last Monday.

LaVine started and played nearly 34 minutes. He scored 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting, making three of four three-pointers.

“I felt fine,” the shooting guard said. “I got a little tired, a little gassed in the first couple of minutes. But it was all right.”

Did he feel rust? “I felt perfectly fine,” he said. “I just should have made more shots.”

With LaVine back, Thibodeau indicated it might be difficult for Brandon Rush — who started in LaVine’s place in victories over Houston and Oklahoma City — to get minutes.

Rush did get into Sunday’s game, playing 3  ½ minutes. But Thibodeau, searching for a combination that would work, went uncharacteristically deep into his bench, playing 11 players.

Expect him to return to his nine-man rotation, with eight players getting the majority of the minutes.

“The thing is, you have to have a rotation,” Thibodeau said. “You have to be careful with how many guys you’re playing. So we’ll get back to our rotation, and the other guys have to stay ready. They’re situational.”

Campaigning for Towns

Ricky Rubio has taken it upon himself to do more than feed Karl-Anthony Towns the ball. Rubio has been working hard trying to get his teammate into the All-Star Game, tweeting his support.

“What he’s doing at 21 years old, just amazing,” Rubio said. “He’s helping us to win games, and that’s what we want. He’s playing at a high level. All-Star level. Vote for him.”


• Rubio had 10 assists Sunday, the point guard’s fourth consecutive game with at least 10, matching the second-longest such streak in his career. Rubio has 56 assists in those four games, with nine turnovers.

• Andrew Wiggins’ eight rebounds were his most since getting 10 vs. Philadelphia Nov. 17.