There was a rare sighting on the floor in Wednesday's Timberwolves loss to the Pacers — Naz Reid and Karl-Anthony Towns playing together. Normally, when Towns is healthy and playing his regular dose of minutes, Reid serves as Towns' backup and plays only when Towns isn't.
The matchup against Indiana and its big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis offered coach Ryan Saunders the rare chance to play Towns and Reid at the same time.
Reid had been on a roll starting in place of Towns when Towns was out battling COVID. When Towns was out, Reid became the starter and was averaging 25.6 minutes per game to go along with 14.4 points and 5.9 rebounds over a stretch of 11 games from mid January until last week.
Reid was playing so well that Saunders remarked then he has "probably got to find more time" to play him.
Reid showed why again on Wednesday. He had 18 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes and helped the Wolves twice build a lead on the second unit. But Reid, who is averaging 12.5 points per game, still hasn't eclipsed 20 minutes since Towns returned to the lineup.
Reid has found minutes of late as Towns' primary backup, but Saunders has been hesitant to play them together on the floor not because of how they'd mesh offensively but because of how defensive matchups would shake out. One of them might have to guard a quicker player at the four spot, and that could lead to mismatches.
"The thing we run into a lot of times, it's not the offense, it's the defense," Saunders said. "I said before I'd love to find more minutes for Naz and KAT together. You look at [the Charlotte game Friday] and think maybe you can play those guys together a little bit more, and then one of them is guarding Gordon Hayward out there. … You want to make sure you're being true to both sides of the ball."
Playing with the second unit does allow Reid to play with point guard Jordan McLaughlin — and their connection is evident each time they play together.
"We have a tremendous chemistry," Reid said. "I know he's always going to get me the shot or whoever's open."
It was a connection they honed during their days playing in the G-League at Iowa. Specifically, Reid and McLaughlin look like they've been running a pick and roll for years. McLaughlin has a knack for hitting Reid at just the right moment, even if it's well after they have rolled to the basket.
"J-Mac is quick, blowing by on the screen and then it's just one-on-one at the rim," Reid said. "And usually his guy is bigger than him so he thinks he's going to be able to block it and then J-Mac makes a great pass on a late read to hit me on the roll. The chemistry is there. That's important with anybody."
The guy Reid is backing up has liked what he has seen ever since Reid was growing up. Towns and Reid are both from New Jersey, and Towns said he was aware of who Reid was on the local AAU circuit back in the day. Now Reid is making the rest of the NBA pay attention to him.
"Naz is playing tremendously well," Towns said. "He's doing all the little things, and he's just building his reputation and he's doing it the right way with the right fundamentals and the right character."