Starting role agrees with Timberwolves’ Saric

Being in the starting lineup appears to be agreeing with Minnesota’s Dario Saric.

Acquired along with Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless in the Jimmy Butler trade, Saric was used off the bench — with one exception, a start at Phoenix on Dec. 15 — after his arrival to the Timberwolves.

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That changed Feb. 11 when interim head coach Ryan Saunders moved Saric into the starting lineup, where he’s been now for eight consecutive games. And he’s thriving in that role.

In 40 games off the bench for the Wolves, Saric averaged 9.4 points on 44.6 percent shooting, including 37.7 percent on his 3 attempts. In his nine games as a starter, including that one back in December against the Suns, he’s averaging 11.3 points, on 46.3 percent shooting including 41.7 percent from 3, as well as 6.9 rebounds and 0.89 steals per game.

That’s even better production than he had in Philadelphia this season, where Saric started all 13 games in which he appeared. In those 13 starts with the 76ers, Saric averaged 11.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 0.31 steals per game, while shooting just 36.4 percent from the field and 30.0 percent from 3, while averaging 30.4 minutes per game. Saric is averaging nearly four minutes fewer per game (26.7) as a starter for Minnesota.

The Wolves, 29-34 on the season entering Tuesday night’s game vs. Oklahoma City, are 4-4 in the last eight games with Saric starting.

Other notes:

— Minnesota is 5-1 against the Thunder since 2017-18. That’s the Wolves best record against a Northwest Division foe over that span.

— However, interestingly the Wolves’ average margin of victory over Oklahoma City is just 5.0 points per game, which is tied for their lowest average margin of victory against any team over the past two years.

— In their last seven games, the Thunder have trailed by 10+ points in each and are 2-5 in those contests. One more such game would tie the longest streak in the NBA this season.  Both the Blazers and Clippers had eight straight games in which they trailed by 10+ points.

Karl-Anthony Towns has led Minnesota in points, rebounds, blocks and steals in the same game six times this season. Only Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis have led their respective teams more times in those categories, with eight. Detroit’s Andre Drummond has also done it six times.

Statistics courtesy Sportradar and