There wasn’t much that happened on the Timberwolves’ recent three-game winless road trip that provided reasons for consolation.
They enter Monday five games behind the Clippers, who happen to be their opponent at Target Center and holding the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
However, one development on the road trip could spark optimism: Dario Saric played some of his best basketball in a Wolves uniform. He scored a season-high 22 points Tuesday in keeping Memphis from blowing out the Wolves, and he contributed 17 at Orlando on Thursday. In both games, he was 7-for-11 from the floor.
Saric hasn’t always looked comfortable in his time with the Wolves, and there have been games the 6-10 forward from Croatia hasn’t made much of a dent in the boxscore, but that has changed of late.
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“I feel all right,” Saric said. “I always try to stay aggressive. Coming from the bench, I really try to bring some kind of energy to the team … In that moment [at Memphis] some shots opened for me. I scored the next two games, too. So I’m feeling pretty well.”
Interim coach Ryan Saunders said he made some slight adjustments in how Saric operates within the offense. Saunders is trying to get the ball in the 24-year-old’s hands at the beginning of set plays, an attempt to get him in a good rhythm, especially the first time Saric enters a game. Saric is in a position of strength when he’s operating with the ball.
“You see that with a lot of players who have been well-coached over the years,” Saunders said of Saric, who was the No. 12 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by Orlando. “He’s one of those guys that he is able to do different things, he’s smart and he knows when to cut and things like that.”
Part of that is also to get Saric, who was a combined plus-38 on the road trip, more confident in his abilities.
For Saric, part of his adjustment process since coming from Philadelphia with Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless in the Jimmy Butler trade Nov. 12 has been learning to play with new teammates.
“It takes some time. I wasn’t aggressive enough,” Saric said. “It was one part my problem. I really would wait for somebody to make a play for me. And now I figured it out the last couple games and I tried to really give 100 percent to be involved in the play.”
In this way, Saunders said, Covington had an easier time blending in because of his style of play offensively. “Something Robert does well is catch-and-shoot offense within the half-court and within transition,” Saunders said. “So a lot of times if you run, it’s easier to play with those types of guys early on because you know where they’re going to be. … Dario is such a cerebral guy, that he cuts with timing and things like that. So I think it’s about teammates getting to know each other, as well.”
Over the last week, his teammates have been getting to see what Saric can do. Now, to keep it up.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I got more touches. Every play I’m feeling more comfort and bigger in the team.”
Note: The Wolves signed guard Isaiah Canaan to a second 10-day contract. Canaan has played in the Wolves’ past five games, averaging 6.0 points.