After Nickeil Alexander-Walker came to the Timberwolves as part of the trade that brought Mike Conley to town in February, he saw the court for a combined 6 minutes, 12 seconds in his first three games in a Wolves uniform.

Since then, Alexander-Walker went from afterthought in the trade to the starting lineup in the playoffs. His defensive intensity and acumen earned him significant minutes down the stretch of the season and, with Jaden McDaniels out because of a broken right hand, the Wolves have started Alexander-Walker in their play-in game against Oklahoma City — where he limited his cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — and two playoff games against the Nuggets.

Sunday night he helped save Minnesota's season. With the Wolves trailing 100-98 in overtime, Alexander-Walker assisted on a Conley three-pointer then hit two himself on back-to-back possessions for a 107-102 lead. Alexander-Walker finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds in 38 minutes of action and was crucial in holding Denver star Jamal Murray to 19 points on 8-for-21 shooting.

But the last time Alexander-Walker plays in a Wolves uniform could come soon. He is a restricted free agent after the season, and even though the Wolves can match any offer he receives, that is not guaranteed to happen.

Alexander-Walker has played for three different franchises in his four years in the league, and said he'd like to stay in Minnesota for a while.

"I'm grateful for Minnesota, grateful for [coach Chris] Finch and the head office," Alexander-Walker said. "They gave me a chance. I've been working very, very hard, relentlessly and sometimes I'm too hard on myself, for an opportunity. So for me to get that, I would love to come back. I believe in this group. Believe that we can figure it out together and do something special."

He found familiarity in the Wolves with Finch, who was an assistant when Alexander-Walker was in New Orleans. Finch has said Alexander-Walker has done a good job of figuring out what his identity could be in the NBA.

"It's tough for a guy to come into the league with a vision of who you are and how you want to play, and make your mark on the league," Finch said recently. "And it doesn't always unfold like that, certainly not right away. I think he's at peace now with who he is as a player. He plays to his strengths a lot more."

Alexander-Walker is hoping some stability in his career can help bring out his best qualities as a player.

"That's where a lot of growth has been done," Alexander-Walker said. "Then the consistent work over time, and when you compound those things, it eventually turns to something great. You can just see that from a lot of great players in this league. At some point in time there's stability there, and they're able to build a foundation and grow from there. So for me it's just continuing to get better in every aspect. Maybe that's where I can lay my foundation."

Surprise for the Wolves

Coming into the series, the Wolves thought they might have an advantage when Nikola Jokic isn't on the floor. That hasn't been the case. In each game, Denver has won the minutes Jokic has been on the bench. In Game 1, Denver was plus-14 when Jokic didn't play. In Game 2, plus-three and plus-two in Game 3.

Finch said Denver made an adjustment compared to what they did in the regular season, when they struggled with Jokic off the floor.

"Coming into this series, the non-Jokic minutes where they've struggled, and they've kind of figured that out with putting [Aaron] Gordon at [center]," Finch said. "They hadn't done [that] most of the regular season. Those minutes, they've beaten us in, and that's something we thought coming into the series we'd be able to win those. That lineup has gone to heavy volume switching, which has troubled us this season, not just in this series."