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Timberwolves not giving up on the Ricky Rubio-D’Angelo Russell pairing

8February 2021

It has been brutal.

There is no other way to describe the two-man combination of Ricky Rubio and D’Angelo Russell this season. Point guard was supposed to be Minnesota’s position of strength this season, and Russell and Rubio were supposed to be two of Minnesota’s best players, regardless of position.

Certainly, Rubio has been woeful for much of the season as he’s struggled to find a rhythm, and Russell has overwhelmed at various points, but never more so has that been true than when the two have played alongside one another.

Minnesota touted the potential two-point guard look this offseason. Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders is a believer in stacking the lineup with multiple playmakers. Preseason, Russell noted he’s never had the chance to play alongside a guard like Rubio.

It shows, and not in a good way.

The two have shared the floor for 141 minutes this season, and in that time are being outscored by 22.4 points per 100 possessions — representing one of Minnesota’s worst tandems this season.

Yet Saunders continues to use the duo, much to the ire of Minnesota fans. There was a brief period in which the two guards weren’t sharing the floor, but Saunders has since gone back to it.

Why continue to go back to something that doesn’t work?

“Part of me says that for us to be a good team, we’ve got to get those guys comfortable together, where a guy like Ricky can help make decisions down the stretch to take some pressure off DLo, especially when (Karl-Anthony Towns) not playing,” Saunders said. “I look at all the numbers like everybody does, but I also have confidence in what the plan was and has been when you do build out the roster, and Ricky and DLo playing together some, that’s something we’ve got to get better with, and the only way to do that is by playing.”

The logic is sound. Theoretically, the two should fit together in time.

“They’re great IQ guys so any time they’re on the floor together, you’re going to get the right play, the right call,” Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley said. “They know how to get guys in position. With those guys together, it’s hard to defend that. It’s hard to trap DLo in that sense because we’ve got two point guards, and DLo can play off the ball a little bit more.”

The two involved in the pairing aren’t giving up on it, either. Despite their early struggles, Russell said he trusts Rubio “more than anything.”

“He used to bust my (butt) back in the day. Kudos to him, big time. If he’s on the floor with me, I’m listening and I’m letting him quarterback whenever he wants to,” Russell said. “I think he gives us another dynamic. Moves me off the ball to playmake, as well.”

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