June 22, 2024

Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards has a message for the Nuggets: This series is not over

The clock ticked down on one other deflating Minnesota Timberwolves efficiency at residence, and a rejuvenated Jamal Murray seemed to be having some enjoyable at the Wolves’ expense. Anthony Edwards noticed it the complete means, and he began clapping his means towards Murray on his means off of the courtroom.

There was a a part of Edwards that hated to see Murray yapping at the second after his Denver Nuggets had simply evened their playoffs series at 2-2 with their second straight win at Target Center. There was one other a part of him that cherished it.

Edwards loves a combat. And that’s precisely what the Timberwolves have now after squandering a 2-0 lead in the series by dropping each of their residence video games, together with a 115-107 loss in Game 4 on Sunday night time. Edwards didn’t take kindly to Murray’s end-of-game theatrics, however Murray earned the proper to preen with the punches he threw in Minneapolis after being bottled up in Denver. That left Edwards with a style of blood in his mouth and a smile on his face as he chirped proper again at him.

“I just told his ass we love that,” Edwards mentioned. “Keep talking that. That’s what we like. Well, I loved it.”

If the Timberwolves and their followers want a supply of inspiration as the series shifts again to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday night time, they want solely take a look at their 22-year-old famous person. He has set the franchise document for factors in a playoff sport twice this series, first with his 43 in Game 1 after which with 44 on Sunday night time. He additionally had 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 3-pointers and two steals in over 45 minutes in Game 4, trying each bit the worthy adversary for the defending champions.

He has appeared prepared for the playoff lights from the first time he bathed in them as a 20-year-old, a 36-point jaw-dropper in a Game 1 win in Memphis in 2022. During these two dispiriting defeats at residence in entrance of a raucous Target Center crowd, Edwards’ perspective in dealing with the ups and the downs has been past his years.

“I don’t think they got any momentum. We won two games. They won two games,” Edwards mentioned with a shrug. “At this point, it’s whoever wins two games. I don’t know how people look at it, but I look at it like I’m happy. I’m ready.”

He simply wants some assist. Edwards made 16 of 25 pictures (64 %), together with 5 of 8 on 3s (62.5 %) and seven of 8 (87.5 %) from the free-throw line. He performed 45 minutes, 20 seconds. The Wolves outscored Denver by 5 in these minutes and misplaced the 2:40 he sat by a staggering 13 factors. His teammates shot 40 % for the sport and 30 % from deep.

Karl-Anthony Towns had a woeful night time, scoring 13 factors on 5-of-18 taking pictures whereas getting labored by Nikola Jokić and Aaron Gordon in the frontcourt. This was the first time Towns has performed on Mother’s Day since he misplaced his mother, Jacqueline, to issues from COVID-19 in 2020.

Perhaps he was too wound up due to the significance of the day, however this was not the identical participant who has been so efficient by way of these playoffs. His vitality on the offensive finish was frenetic, and he missed his first seven pictures and was 1 of 10 at halftime.

“Things weren’t falling today. I take responsibility for that,” Towns mentioned. “I know I put the work in, so I feel good about the work I put in. It’s shown this playoffs. It’s unfortunate that on Mother’s Day, I have a shooting performance like that.”

On protection, Towns was a revelation in Games 1 and a couple of in Denver, taking over the Jokić matchup and releasing up Rudy Gobert to roam off of Aaron Gordon. But Jokić had his means with anybody the Wolves put in entrance of him on Sunday night time, resuming the kind that earned him a third MVP award this season. He scored 35 factors on 15-of-26 taking pictures. Gordon was even higher, placing up 27 factors on 11-of-12 taking pictures with seven rebounds, six assists and two blocked pictures.

Towns was hardly the solely Wolves participant to battle. Nickeil Alexander-Walker missed all 4 of his 3s (1 of seven general) and had a arduous time impacting the sport defensively like he did in Denver. Kyle Anderson solely performed 6 minutes, 11 seconds however the Wolves have been outscored by 18 factors in that point. Gobert had 11 factors and 14 rebounds and positively had his moments defensively, however he additionally turned the ball over 5 occasions and was burned by the Wolves’ choice to sag off of Gordon on offense.

Gordon is taking pictures 29 % from 3-point vary this season, however he buried each of his tries in Game 4 and was 3 of 4 in Denver’s win in Game 3.

“If Gordon turns into Kobe Bryant for stretches, we’ve got to be living with that,” Gobert mentioned. “Those shots were contested, highly contested some of them. This is part of the game. We know that they’re a good team, we know that Murray, Jokić, Michael Porter, all these guys are going to hit tough shots at some point.”

The Nuggets put Gordon in additional of a facilitator position to fight the ball strain that the Wolves utilized in such a suffocating style in Denver. It labored fantastically, getting the ball zipping round in the half courtroom to show the tables on the No. 1 protection in the league.

Justin Holiday hit three 3s, Christian Braun scored 11 factors and Denver’s bench outscored Minnesota’s 27-13, taking away what was purported to be a huge benefit for the deeper Timberwolves. The Nuggets shot 57 % from the area and 45 % from 3-point land, turning the Wolves protection inside-out with their ball motion and well timed taking pictures.

These are the Nuggets that bum-rushed the playoffs final season on their method to their first championship. These are the Nuggets who entered these playoffs as the favorites in the West. These are the Nuggets who have been nowhere to be found in opposition to the Timberwolves in Denver.

They scored 20 factors off of 11 turnovers by Minnesota, giving the much less skilled Wolves a lesson in what occurs once you make errors in opposition to a championship crew. The sport turned fully at the finish of the first half. The Wolves had trimmed a 16-point deficit to seven with 20 seconds to go on a 3 from Edwards that received the crowd to its toes.

But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a 3, his solely make of the sport after which Jokić received a steal and fed Porter for a dunk with 1.6 seconds to play. The backbreaker got here when Alexander-Walker tried to heave the inbounds cross down the courtroom to Jaden McDaniels. NAW overshot him, and it landed proper in the palms of Murray, who launched a 55-foot heave that splashed by way of. It was an eight-point explosion in 20 seconds that gave the Nuggets a 64-49 lead at the break.

“These are inexcusable plays you can’t make right now,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch mentioned. “In general, offensively, in particular, we lost our composure a little bit. Just kind of rushing things up there. Chasing the ball. Seeing our structure collapse as a result.”

Now the Timberwolves’ margin for error has collapsed as effectively. They got here residence after two emphatic victories in the mountains listening to strategies that a sweep was imminent and a run to the title not solely potential however possible. They needed so badly to offer these long-suffering followers who packed Target Center a trigger to rejoice, realizing that even a cut up would put them in a commanding place to make their first convention finals in 20 years.

Instead, the champion has woke up. Murray has resumed his place as one in every of the league’s finest powerful shotmakers. Jokić appears to have discovered the Wolves protection and Gordon is hitting every thing in sight.

“I said it after Game 2, they’re not going to lay down,” Edwards mentioned. “They’re going to punch and we’re going to punch back. They beat us up tonight. The last two nights, they beat us up in the fight. That’s OK. we’re going to be all right.”

Sometimes phrases like that may ring hole, a participant saying what must be mentioned, however deep down believing one thing totally completely different. That is not the way it felt when Edwards was talking. He has taken it to the Nuggets in three of the 4 video games of this series. He is aware of they’ll win in Denver as a result of they’ve already carried out it twice in these playoffs and as soon as in the common season.

Edwards believes Towns and Alexander-Walker will hit all of these open pictures they missed in Game 4. He believes Naz Reid’s protection will maintain up prefer it did in Games 1 and a couple of. He believes the Wolves will make Murray pay for puffing his chest out, a lot the means Murray and the Nuggets did when the Wolves have been howling at the moon after Game 2. Edwards knew the series wasn’t over when the Wolves have been up 2-0, and he is aware of the series is not over now that it is 2-2.

Edwards saved nodding his head as he stepped towards Murray at the finish of Game 4, telling him to have his enjoyable whereas he can. Now this best-of-seven series is all the way down to a better of three.

The Timberwolves try to do one thing that they’ve not carried out in twenty years, they usually should undergo the defending champions to get there. This is purported to be arduous. That’s simply the means Edwards likes it. That is why he smiled whereas he talked to Murray at the finish of Game 4.

“He didn’t say anything back. But I’m pretty sure he heard me,” Edwards mentioned. “They heard me. You live for that.”

(Photo of Jamal Murray and Anthony Edwards: David Sherman / NBAE through Getty Images)