Anthony Edwards helps Timberwolves avoid Nuggets sweep

Andre LopezESPN5 minute read

MINNEAPOLIS — Anthony Edwards wasn’t ready for the end of his season. And he certainly wasn’t ready for the Denver Nuggets to dispatch the Minnesota Timberwolves without winning a game in their first-round series.

“I never want to say I got swept away in my career,” Edwards said Sunday night. “So I definitely took it personally tonight.”

With their backs against the wall, the eighth-seeded Timberwolves beat the Nuggets 114-108 in overtime to avoid the sweep and send the series back to Denver with the Nuggets leading 3-1.

It looked like the Timberwolves were in for the late game victory as they took a 12-point lead over a jumper Edwards with 2:52 remaining, drawing a timeout from Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

From there, Denver finished regulation on a 12-0 run to send the game into overtime and quiet the Target Center faithful.

The Nuggets hit three straight 3-pointers — one from Nikola Jokic and two from Michael Porter Jr. — then Jokic hit a jumper into the lane with 48.9 seconds left to cut Minnesota’s advantage to 96-95 . With 12.7 seconds left, Jokic was fouled and made one of two free throws to tie the game.

Edwards had a chance to win the game in regulation time but was stripped by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as he got up for a shot in the closing seconds.

“At that point, it felt like (there was) nothing we could do about the last two minutes. But we can control the next five,” said veteran Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley. . “Let’s come here as a group and lock in what we did to take this lead. »

Despite finishing with a team-high 34 points on 12-of-27 shooting, Edwards was critical of his fourth quarter play and his overall play in general.

“I played terrible if you ask me,” Edwards said. “I took three bad 3s, three terrible possessions, and almost killed us. I didn’t play well tonight.”

Edwards was 1 of 5 in the fourth quarter, with his jump shot to put the Timberwolves up 12 his only mark. He missed three shots before that – although one was a mid-range 2-point attempt – before also missing the potential game winner at the end of regulation.

With victory in hand, Edwards said he knew what he would do differently if Wolves found themselves in this situation again.

“If we’re six or eight minutes ahead in three minutes, I definitely go down to the edge or get a half-range shot,” Edwards said. “I’m not going to settle. I settled for three bad, bad, terrible 3s, and it won’t happen again.”

Edwards had both of his shots in overtime, both coming at big moments. First, he hit a layup with 1:29 left to extend Minnesota’s lead to seven. But after the Nuggets scored on three straight possessions, Wolves were once again looking at a potential meltdown.

But with 11.5 seconds left, Edwards confidently entered a 3-pointer after a hard cross dribble to give Wolves a four-point lead.

“I wasn’t passing the ball,” Edwards said. “I was taking the hit. I was going to live with it if I lost the game or we won. And I ended up taking the hit.”

While Edwards’ shot put Wolves comfortably, he called Nickeil Alexander-Walker the ‘MVP’ of the game.

With Jaden McDaniels out with a broken right hand, Alexander-Walker took over the mission of guarding Nuggets star Jamal Murray. But it was Alexander-Walker’s attack that helped decide the late game.

Despite missing all three of his 3-point attempts by then, Alexander-Walker had two straight 3-pointers in overtime to give Minnesota the lead and then extend it to five.

“Ready shot,” said Alexander-Walker when asked what he was thinking as the ball was passed to him late. “I know the rotations, I watch a lot of movies. I just stayed prepared. I know my teammates are going to rely on me because they’re playing this good game. And just trusting my work, trusting him and knowing that finally the law of averages, the blows must fall.”

Malone criticized his team’s defensive performance during the overtime period. After his team limited the Timberwolves to just 16 points in the fourth quarter, Minnesota scored 18 in five minutes of overtime.

“The hardest thing to put up with in this game is that we didn’t want and couldn’t get the necessary saves,” Malone said.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Timberwolves became the first team to score more points in the first overtime period of a game than in the fourth quarter since the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the 2006 playoffs (21 in OT, 17 in the fourth quarter) against the Lakers in the first round.

Part of what got Minnesota back on their offense was ball movement. The Timberwolves had two assists while going 7 of 19 from the field in the fourth quarter, but assisted on four of their six in overtime.

“I think we have to keep pushing for something,” Wolves manager Chris Finch said. “I think that’s part of the problem is that we put ourselves down (on ourselves) or try to end the game too early.”

Edwards continued his stellar playoff run, and Finch said the All-Star guard is building on what he started a year ago. In his first 10 career playoff games, Edwards scored 280 points. It’s the seventh-most players in their first 10 playoff games since 1979, behind only Michael Jordan, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Trae Young and Allen Iverson.

It was Edwards’ fifth 30-point game in those 10 games. The only player with more playoff performance than 30 points at 21 or younger is James. Edwards broke a tie with Kobe Bryant with four.

When asked if he was in the same conversation as these two legends, Edwards was quick to dismiss it.

“These are just statistics,” Edwards said. “These guys have won championships…but I haven’t done anything. I haven’t made it out of the first round. It’s great to be mentioned with these guys, but I have still work to do.”

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