Looking for a spark after three blowout losses, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders decided to shake up his starting lineup in his team's 124-109 loss to the Nuggets.
D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarrett Culver getting the start wasn't all that surprising, but Juancho Hernangomez and Ed Davis getting the start was new.
Saunders was attempting a few things with this configuration. Davis and Russell played together before coming to the Wolves and Saunders was hoping to help jumpstart Russell's fledgling game with some familiarity in Davis' pick and roll action.
It seemed to work in the third quarter as Russell finally got going, the Wolves got a lead and Russell looked like the player the Wolves envisioned when they traded for him.
"I'm going to try to get him open looks, get him open as much as possible," Davis said. "Just trying to get him going. Just help him out. That's just my role. Set screens, rebound, do all the dirty things."
Davis finished with five points and eight rebounds. Russell was appreciative of his effort.
"He's huge for us. Those are the little things you don't really recognize or give credit to," Russell said. "But he did a hell of a job just being him, and having a tough matchup, trying to cover for that as well. He played really well for us."
Davis starting also allowed Naz Reid to come off the bench and not have to go toe-to-toe with Denver All-NBA center Nikola Jokic. Reid got in foul trouble when facing Jokic last season, Saunders said, and he wanted to avoid that this time. Reid had 13 points but did end up with five fouls.
Hernangomez's presence in the lineup allowed Culver to play a more natural wing position and he regained form. After scoring just four points combined in the Wolves' last two games, Culver ended up with 20 and six rebounds.
"Honestly it's just an aggressive mindset, it's going out there and staying aggressive, keep that mindset that the team is going to need it on defense and offense," Culver said.
Culver attributed some of his success to getting to FaceTime with his mother before the game on a screen the Wolves installed near the court during warmups.
"She told me she loved me and to go out there and have fun. That was kind of on my mind today. Play for God like I always do. So go out there and have fun. So thanks to mom."
Hernangomez, however, still can't find traction in this young season, as he scored just six points on 3 of 10 shooting.
Saunders, however, said he saw some good signs from Hernangomez.
"I did think he had some good defensive possessions. I thought that helped us," Saunders said. "His size and length helped us a little bit even though we got beat on the glass, I thought he was able to get his hands on a few. He had some good looks, missed a couple that he'll usually make around the basket. So for that reason, I see progress with Juancho as well."