One of the most encouraging things to come out of the Wolves’ two-game road trip wasn’t just the ending of a four-game losing streak.
Or the favorable three-point shooting after a games-long slump.
It was the emergence of the Wolves bench.
In consecutive games the bench had multiple players score in double figures. In both Friday’s loss in New York and Saturday’s victory in Charlotte, the bench pulled the Wolves out of slow starts in the first half and rallied from 10-point deficits to start the fourth quarter.
On Friday, the Wolves were unable to finish the game off. On Saturday they were.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said he thought backup point guard Kris Dunn played his best game of the season Friday. Saturday was pretty close, too.
Backup center Cole Aldrich had his first double-double in a Wolves jersey in New York with 10 points and 12 rebounds and he had four points, eight rebounds and three blocks in Charlotte.
Shabazz Muhammad and Nemanja Bjelica scored in double figures in back-to-back games. The Wolves bench scored a season-high 47 points in New York and had 36 Saturday.
“I thought our bench was terrific again,” Thibodeau said after Saturday’s victory. “The first half they really got us back in the game. We’re getting good minutes out of Kris and Cole and Bazz and Nemanja. And that’s huge for us.
‘‘They did the same thing [in the second half], and the bench came in and got us going again. That’s what we need.’’
The second-unit lineup that has been most effective has Dunn and starter Zach LaVine at guard, Aldrich at center with Bjelica and Muhammad at forward.
On Friday that lineup got the Wolves back in the game after New York took a 24-8 lead. Down 10, the Wolves started the fourth quarter on a 14-3 run to take a one-point lead. Thibodeau went back to his starters, who could not sustain the push.
Saturday, again down 10, the Wolves scored the first 10 points of the quarter, tying the score on Dunn’s three-pointer with 8:18 left.
“It was amazing,” Wiggins said of the bench after Saturday’s game. “It’s been good for the last couple games. We’re getting great minutes from Bjelica, Kris was great tonight, hitting big shots.’’
Perhaps the most promising development is Dunn’s play. Acclimating to the NBA is tough for any rookie, especially a point guard.
“It’s been hard,’’ he said. “It’s a lot of games, and they come quickly. It’s not like college, where you can manage it. It comes right at you. That’s what I’m trying to learn, and I’m trying to learn my role on the team, coming off the bench.’’
Thibodeau especially likes Dunn’s aggressiveness.
“He’s attacking on both ends of the floor,’’ he said. “When I say attacking, people think it’s offensively. It’s defensively as well. The ball pressure, pushing the ball up the floor. [On offense] it’s pushing the ball up the floor, getting into the paint, forcing the defense to collapse and making plays.’’
Dunn had six points on 2-for-3 shooting and five assists in 18-plus minutes in New York. Saturday he played 16-plus minutes, made three of five shots, his only three-pointer and scored eight points with six assists and a steal.
“I understand what I have to do,’’ Dunn said. “My whole life I’ve been the guy. It’s different here. I’m learning my role and trying to embrace it as much as I can.’’