‘It’s what you’ve got to do if you want to win’: Anthony Edwards isn’t playing well enough for Timberwolves to win

posted in: News | 0

Anthony Edwards suddenly looks far more like Clark Kent than Superman — very average.

The 22-year-old superstar guard’s aura was at an all-time high in the middle of the Western Conference semifinals, in which the Wolves ousted the defending champion Nuggets.

But after a pair of duds against Dallas to open the Western Conference Finals — both losses on Minnesota’s home floor — praise is quickly, and justifiably, devolving into criticism.

The man who captured the hearts of basketball fans across America with his electric style of play has seen his force neutralized by fatigue and indecisiveness.

Dallas continues to combine heavy gap help and rim protection with a variety of defensive looks and, frankly, it seems to have Edwards second-guessing himself.

The result through two games is Edwards shooting 33% from the floor and Minnesota’s offense largely bogging down at the most inopportune moments.

“They’re just showing me crowds, man, sitting in the gaps,” Edwards said. “But I’m turning down a lot of shots, like my mid-ranges and stuff. I’m turning a lot of those down.”

Edwards has had plays where he starts to attack the defense on the bounce, only to pull it back out. In the final 20 seconds Friday, he got to the middle of the floor, pulled up, opted not to try to shoot a free-throw line jumper over Dallas big Dereck Lively II and instead threw the ball out of bounds for a turnover that opened the door for Luka Doncic to play the role of assassin on the other end of the floor.

“I wanted to get downhill, and then the gap man was in the gap,” Edwards said. “I tried to make a play and then I think I just passed it too late. So that’s how that was.”

Edwards has been praised for his willingness to get off the ball over the past two-plus months when opponents loaded up to stop him. But the key to that was proper decisions were being made in a split second. Now, when Edwards does make a pass, it’s only coming after over dribbling or excessive ball holding.

That makes life easier on a defense when it doesn’t have to be scrambling around the floor in a reactionary manner.

“I think with Anthony, he’s gotta pick up his decision-making,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “I think (Dallas guard Kyrie Irving) is actually a good example — he’s playing quick off the catch, he’s trying to beat our defensive pressure with everything on the catch, going quickly.”

The coach added that Edwards needs to attack more in transition. He said Edwards started Game 2 by playing with burst and getting downhill. As a result, he was living at the free-throw line.

“Then kinda just phased (that) out as the game went along. Went in there a few times, thought he coulda done it more. And we need him to do it more,” Finch said. “Yeah, he has to do some more early, gotta play off the catch a little bit more. I thought he could be a little more shot-ready. I thought he turned down some open looks, too.”

That all reeks of someone who’s less sure of himself than he usually is. Never was that more evident on that final, fateful turnover. After the game, Finch lamented not calling timeout to get Mike Conley — who’d subbed out for defensive purposes on the possession prior — back into the game to secure a good shot for the Wolves at that pivotal point.

At the moment, possessions guided by Conley are proving far more fruitful for Minnesota than anything Edwards can muster.

“I’m trying to get the ball and be in controlled situations, especially late. Get the guys the ball when they are in good spots to be aggressive. Naz, KAT, Ant, Rudy, Jaden, everybody trying to get guys where they can be super effective,” Conley said. “Especially for Ant, just trying to relieve him from a lot of the duties. He has to do so much for us, he has to guard, he has to play make, he has to score.

“It’s my job to alleviate that pressure a little bit, and I’m probably going to have to be more involved in that, be aggressive, be aggressive offensively. It takes little pressure off of him and try to play make for him, as well.”

Because Edwards’ burden is heavy; He’s played heavy minutes throughout Minnesota’s postseason run, often carrying the offensive scoring load while guarding one of the opponent’s best players. Chasing Irving around is a full-time job. Doing so while also trying to guide an offense is exhausting.

Edwards’ usual on-court bravado has been lacking through two games of this series, while it’s oozing out of Doncic. He might not have the energy to produce it.

Edwards denied it, but ESPN reported the guard was wearing an oxygen mask near the bench at one point during Friday’s Game 2. But, the reality is, at this point in the season, there is no time to be tired. Doncic is battling lower-body injuries, hobbling around the court and still producing at an MVP-type level.

Edwards’ burden will not lessen. His resolve — physically and mentally — must strengthen. He will continue to guard one of the opponent’s best players. He will continue to be tasked with igniting the offense, and he needs to do both at a higher level. If not, this series may not last much longer.

“It’s the Western Conference Finals, man. You can’t look to hide people or try to take breaks,” Finch said. “I don’t see Kyrie shying away from a matchup out there. It’s what you’ve got to do if you want to win.”

Related Articles

Minnesota Timberwolves |

Chris Finch explains his coaching decisions in Timberwolves’ Game 2 loss to Dallas

Minnesota Timberwolves |

Officials say they missed a late foul call on play that ended in Timberwolves turnover

Minnesota Timberwolves |

John Shipley: Luka Doncic closed the door, but Kyrie Irving made it happen for Dallas

Minnesota Timberwolves |

Luka Doncic drills late triple to put Timberwolves down 2-0 in West Finals

Minnesota Timberwolves |

John Shipley: Wolves’ Luka Garza watching, waiting and playing Nikola Jokić

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.