The Timberwolves got some welcome news on the injury front Sunday, as point guard Jordan McLaughlin made his return from a left calf strain.
McLaughlin was back in the rotation on a minutes restriction against Denver in his first game since Dec. 9. He missed 30 consecutive games because of the strain. Before that, McLaughlin missed five games because of the injury and played in three before re-aggravating in a game against the Jazz.
"He's huge for us. He brings a ton of energy. Makes winning plays," coach Chris Finch said. "A lot of guys play really well alongside of him. That'll be a big boost. It'll be interesting to see."
McLaughlin was averaging only 4.1 points and 3.6 assists before the injury, but no player on the Wolves receives more praise for the things they do that don't show up in the boxscore than McLaughlin.
McLaughlin is a push-the-pace kind of point guard who tries to get the Wolves into and out of actions quickly, the way Finch prefers the offense to hum. Teammates love playing with him because of his unselfishness.
"I'm sure he's going to play in the same way he always plays," Finch said. "I'm sure he'll be rusty, but J-Mac, the things that he does for us most, I think, he can still do those things. It'll be the shotmaking and stuff like that [that will be rusty]."
Finch mentioned McLaughlin would be on a minutes restriction while he plays his way back into a rhythm. The Wolves haven't practiced much of late, but they have had McLaughlin playing in their post shootaround "Stay in Shape" league with staff members that is for players at the end of the bench and those coming back from injury.
"He's been playing it for a little while," Finch said. "I think he's got a good rhythm, it's just not NBA level right now."
In other Wolves injury news, Kyle Anderson was available after exiting Friday's game because of back spasms.
Austin Rivers served the first game of his three-game suspension for his involvement in a fight that broke out during Friday's Magic-Wolves game. Magic center Mo Bamba received a four-game suspension while guard Jalen Suggs was suspended one game for tackling Rivers during the skirmish, which took place after Rivers and Bamba began jawing at each other near the Orlando bench.
Forward Jaden McDaniels was fined $20,000 for his role, which the league said involved McDaniels running into the scrum and pushing Bamba.
Bamba also tried to continue the fight in the hallway behind the floor, the league said, and pushed security personnel while trying to confront Rivers.
Finch didn't have much comment about the league's discipline, except to question why McDaniels was fined.
"A little disappointed that there was a further fine there for Jaden," Finch said. "I thought that was like insult to injury, but moving on."
McDaniels was ejected from the game, as was Taurean Prince, who received no further discipline.
Denver sits key players
For the second time in as many trips to Minnesota, the Nuggets were playing on the tail end of a back to back. They opted to sit several key contributors, including Nikola Jokic (hamstring), Jamal Murray (knee), Aaron Gordon (ankle) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (ankle).