Ricky Rubio had just finished up a 17-assist, one-turnover game in the Timberwolves' 119-105 victory over Houston on Wednesday, leading the Wolves to post 30 or more assists for the second consecutive game.
He mentioned one player he had looked for all night: Brandon Rush.
"Great shooter," Rubio said. "I was looking for him in the corner. With [Karl-Anthony Towns] rolling to the basket, they had to help, and [Rush] was wide open. He hit a lot of threes."
On the outside looking in at the Wolves rotation for much of the season, Rush played in only his 14th game and made his first start with Zach LaVine out because of a hip contusion.
The result: In a season-high 36 minutes, Rush hit four of seven three-pointers, scored 12 points, had three rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
His outside touch provided the spacing that helped the Wolves shoot better than 54 percent, but Rush's most exciting play might have been a second-quarter block. A Wolves turnover led to a Rockets fast break. But, racing back, Rush was able to block Corey Brewer's layup, firing up the Target Center crowd and the Wolves bench.
"That shows how valuable he is," Towns said. "And how professional he is, to be ready for the moment he was needed."
With LaVine still on the mend — he did mainly rehab Thursday and is listed as questionable for Friday's game with Oklahoma City — Rush could get another start and more minutes, at least in the short term.
But when LaVine returns, Rush's playing time could shrink once again. Coach Tom Thibodeau is determined to keep his rotation tight. "I think it's important for our young guys to get the experience they're getting," he said.
But when called upon against the Rockets, Rush's presence was all over the stat sheet.
His shooting was a difference-maker. With Rubio's playmaking skills in full force, and the Wolves being productive in the paint, Rush positioned himself in the corner on the weak side and waited for his opportunities.
And he got them. Rubio got an assist on all four of Rush's three-pointers. The Wolves' ball movement was exceptional, creating 31 assists.
"I've been around the league for a long time," said the 6-6 Rush, in his ninth season. "I know the spacing. I know where to be and where not to be to get some good looks. Ricky, he's smart. He knows the right pass to make."
Rush was signed to a one-year, $3.5 million free agent contract last summer. After a productive preseason, a toe injury limited his availability early in the season. By the time he got healthy, Thibodeau had settled on a rotation.
But he was ready Wednesday, there on the weak side, hitting threes.
"It opens up the floor," Thibodeau said. "You can add Nemanja [Bjelica] into that as well. When you can add a stretch-4, a guy who can shoot like that, and you have pressure with the big rolling to the rim, it opens up the floor. The thing about Brandon, he knows how to play off people. He never stands. He moves on penetration and he makes good decisions once the ball has been shot. That helps you with your defensive transition. I think his experience helped us."
Rush said he hoped his play would earn him more minutes going forward.
"But I know how it works," he said. "When Zach gets back, he's going to get his minutes. And I'll wait for my time again. I'll wait for my name to be called and be ready."