There are many reasons why the Timberwolves have won their last three games, but it is hard to overlook these facts.
When the Wolves came out of the All-Star break, they didn't have Taurean Prince, who was away from the team because of personal reasons. The Wolves lost both of those games to Washington and Golden State.
Then Prince rejoined the team ahead of its game against the Clippers last week and now the Wolves have won three consecutive games.
This lines up with how the Wolves have been most of the season. When Prince plays, they are 24-16. They are 10-16 when he doesn't.
"He's like the ultimate glue guy with a little bit extra spice to it," guard Mike Conley said. "You think he's just three-and-D and all of a sudden, coming off pin downs, he's making plays for guys. He's being a leader. … He's got a full game to him that's really big for our second unit. It allows the balance to stay how it is."
That last part has seemed important for the Wolves, who face Philadelphia on Tuesday night at Target Center. Because of Prince's multi-skill toolbox, he has provided a steady presence for a bench unit that has looked rejuvenated in the past few games.
"We know how important we are to the team and how we can help the starters and make their job easier as the nights go on," Prince said of the bench unit. "We just try to bring that every game, be as consistent as possible. The best ability is availability, so whether it was injuries or things we can't control, just always trying to be there."
Getting him healthy and back in the rotation has been one of the more under-the-radar needs for the Wolves this season. Prince is averaging 8.6 points per game and is shooting 39% from three-point range. Prince also brings a defensive presence the Wolves need off the bench. When he's on the floor, the Wolves have a better defensive rating (1.3 points per 100 possessions better) than when he's off it.
"The energy that he brings, the poise that he brings, his shooting and he's just a guy that makes the right play," center Rudy Gobert said. "He just wants to win, just plays in the flow of the game. It's been huge on both ends for us as a team."
One of Prince's most important contributions is his voice and leadership. Throughout the season, he has been one of the vocal leaders on the Wolves, and he isn't afraid to communicate with teammates out of fear someone's feelings might get hurt. Coach Chris Finch said Prince's voice can be "fiery" at times. Direct and honest are also the ways forward Kyle Anderson talks with teammates, and he appreciates that out of Prince's leadership.
"He relates to the guys," Anderson said. "Everybody can talk to each other without catching feelings and he's one of the reasons for that. He always makes sure we stay together. He'll get on you when he has to, and he does a good job of keeping everybody stuck together as well."
Anderson said the Wolves would have won their game at Golden State if Prince had been playing. He would have made that extra shot, taken a charge or locked down defensively — plays on the margin that might have helped the Wolves win a close game. That's what he has done for the Wolves since the second half of last season, when he settled into his role and the bench unit took off.
"I just try to do what I do," Prince said. "I don't hold myself to any limits, whether it's shooting the ball or driving, finishing or passing the ball. Just try to make the right play every time."