Wolves' point guard trio show off connection on court

Not all that long ago, the Timberwolves were searching for one bona fide point guard.

In Friday night's 104-91 home victory over Cleveland, three point guards played together during a chunk of the second quarter.

Starter Mike Conley, Jordan McLaughlin and recently acquired Monte Morris were on the floor together during a game in which Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid returned from injuries while fellow big man Karl-Anthony Towns remained out with a torn meniscus.

The Wolves led 33-27 when Conley came back into the game early in the second quarter. They still led 44-40 before McLaughlin and Morris came out 5½ minutes later.

It was an experiment by Wolves coach Chris Finch should his team, because of injury or circumstance, be forced into playing small ball when the fast-approaching playoffs come. Now he knows they have those three.

"Plus Nickeil, if you count him," Finch said, referring to versatile 6-foot-5 guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

On Friday, Finch praised Conley's aggressiveness that the savvy veteran knows will be needed in April. He called McLaughlin's recent play "otherworldly" and likes what he sees defensively from Morris, who was acquired last month in a trade with Detroit.

The Wolves sent shoot-first point guard D'Angelo Russell to the Lakers in a three-team trade in February 2023, acquiring Conley from Utah in return.

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All three players helped establish a pass-first feeling and create space on Friday as the Wolves moved the ball all around. Six players scored double figures and three had at least five assists: Conley had six and Anthony Edwards and Kyle Anderson five each. The Wolves also shot 14-for-27 from three-point range.

"They were sending Mike certain directions and he just went," Finch said. "He did a good job hitting the hole like a running back and getting downhill. This is how he has been playing the last handful of games and how we need him to keep playing.

"Mike right now is rising to the occasion. You can see himself getting ready for what he knows is coming down the road, which is playoff basketball. He knows he needs to be aggressive."

Conley, 36, has done this a few times in his career, hasn't he?

"I have," Conley said.

This will be his 13th playoff season. He has played 78 playoff games with Memphis, Utah and now the Wolves, and has gone as far as the 2013 Western Conference finals with the Grizzlies against San Antonio.

"It's strategic," he said. "It's hard to go a full season trying to score 21 a game, especially when you're pushing 40, it's tough."

Conley scored 21 points against the Cavaliers. He also scored 25 on March 16 vs. Utah and 23 on March 12 against the Clippers on the recently completed six-game road trip.

He learned to ramp up his game this time of year, but despite his long career, hasn't often played with two other point guards.

"Not too many," Conley said about three-guard lineups. "Sometimes certain nights it's what working for us and we have three really good ones. We know how to play. We find each other really well. Hopefully, we'll get more opportunities."

McLaughlin went 4-for-4 on three-pointers Friday, all in the first half. He went 3-for-3 in the second of consecutive games at Utah on Tuesday before that.

"J-Mac is just playing otherworldly right now," Finch said. "He has come in and changed the game for us. He's shooting with so much confidence, making all the normal J-Mac plays, getting all the 50-50 balls, competing for the ball in the air, flying around, getting his hands on stuff."

Morris has missed some time because of hamstring soreness, but played 18 minutes Friday after playing 23 against Denver on Tuesday.

Add Alexander-Walker, and Finch has plenty of options at the point.

"We're spoiled for choice right there," Finch said, "and I love the fact they all like to play together and they can play together."