Jarred Vanderbilt’s ‘garbage time’ performance led to his reinsertion into Timberwolves’ rotation

The Timberwolves were run over twice at home last week in blowout losses to Brooklyn and Milwaukee.

Oftentimes, after such defeats, coaches will simply “throw away” the tape and move on without thinking twice about the contests. There may not be a lot to gain from analyzing such performances.

And perhaps that is largely what Timberwolves coach Chris Finch did.

But he did have one takeaway from those losses: Jarred Vanderbilt deserves to play.

The reserve forward was flying around the court, hitting the glass and making hustle plays with Minnesota down by 20, 30, even 40 points. Twice in two days, he entered the game during garbage time and played with the tenacity for which he’s now known.

“My mindset is always the same, whether we’re up 30, down 30, I still try to play the same way, just play hard, bring the energy and just never take any moment for granted,” Vanderbilt said. “There’s a lot of people that want to be in this position and wish they could be in here, so I try to take advantage of every opportunity I’m on that floor, just play hard. That’s the least you can do. Just control what you can control. I feel like I was prepared.”

Prior to the Brooklyn game, Vanderbilt had played a total of seven minutes over the team’s previous eight contests. But after the way he played against Brooklyn and Milwaukee, Finch had to reinsert the 22-year-old power forward into the rotation.

It proved to be a wise decision. Minnesota was off to a sluggish start Friday against Miami. Then Vanderbilt entered the game with the second unit and injected some juice into the Wolves, and everyone else followed suit.

“My mindset going into the game was to bring some energy to the team and just up our level of physicality. I felt like our level of competitiveness wasn’t there to begin the game. My job is to go in there and fight, be physical and just try to bring some energy and spark and match their physicality that the Heat were bringing,” Vanderbilt said. “That kind of stuff is contagious. All it takes is a couple guys to spark that energy, and then the rest of the team will feed off of it. That was my mindset. That was my goal to go in there and up the energy and up the physicality and just get some more tempo going.”

Vanderbilt also dominated the game on the glass early in the fourth quarter and even scored a crucial bucket late. He finished with nine points and 14 boards in 22 minutes as Minnesota upset Miami.

Finch said Vanderbilt’s performance was “inspirational.”

“With his energy, he almost single-handedly turned the team around,” Finch said.

Finch said Vanderbilt’s performance was simply a continuation of what he’d done earlier in the week. His effort in the Wolves’ blowout defeats carried over to his contributions to the team’s victory.

So much for “garbage time.”

“Everything matters,” Finch said. “It’s a long season. People fall in and out of the rotation for a variety of reasons. You just have to stay ready and when he got his opportunity this week he proved to us that he deserves to be back in the rotation. Now it’s his challenge to continue to play at this level.”

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