Anthony Edwards needs more postseason stamina for Timberwolves. He knows it. But how can he achieve it?

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Austin Rivers couldn’t believe what he was watching.

Dallas reserve guard Jaden Hardy had the ball at the top of the floor in the final 10 seconds of the third quarter of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. Hardy was being guarded by Kyle Anderson.

And Dallas ran a ball screen to get Anthony Edwards switched onto Hardy.

“They were looking for Ant on switches,” Rivers said last week on The Ryen Russillo Podcast. “And I had to (sit) back in my seat like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, there’s no way they’re calling Ant up for a pick-and-roll switch. He’s one of the best defenders in the league on the ball.’”

It took Hardy all of a couple dribbles to get past Edwards and to the basket for a layup.

“They knew he was tired and gassed and trying to hide, and they called him up,” said Rivers, who was a teammate of Edwards a year ago and now is an NBA commenter. “There’s no way they should ever be picking on Ant on defense. Should never happen. He’s too good of a defender, and I saw that multiple times (in Game 4). And we’re not even talking about Kyrie (Irving) and Luka (Doncic). We’re talking about like their fourth guard, trying to find Ant on a switch to go by him. That can’t happen.”

A day after Minnesota was eliminated from the West finals by Dallas in five games, Anderson was speaking to his father, who told him it looked like the Wolves simply “hit a wall.” The forward concurred.

“Just felt like we didn’t have the same juice that we had in the Denver and Phoenix series, and sometimes you don’t even realize it,” Anderson said. “You try to stay away from that, think I got energy or I’m ready to go. We just didn’t have that same pop on both sides of the ball as a unit too in the Dallas series, as we did in Denver and as we did all season, as we did in Phoenix. Tough.”

That starts with Edwards, Minnesota’s best player and barometer for success. When he’s playing with a certain vigor, the Timberwolves are awfully tough to stop. But he just didn’t seem to have it throughout the West finals.

After lighting the NBA world on fire through his first six postseason bouts this spring, Edwards’ gas tank started to wane. At points in the Dallas series, he appeared to be teetering toward “E.”

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch noted after the series that the value of fitness was a lesson learned for Minnesota in its playoff run.

“Mentally, physical fatigue becomes a real thing the deeper you go. The number of minutes you’re playing, the load, the intensity. Everything goes up,” Finch said. “I think, over time, it probably took its toll on us a bit more.”

It’s a challenge, for sure. It’s not easy to outlast the defending champions in a seven-game series — with four of the contests played at altitude — and then turn around 72 hours later and play another top-tier team.

“That doesn’t mean that you can’t be in better shape or frame of mind for it,” Finch said. “Yeah, every step you go it gets harder and harder. That’s what makes it so special. Your level of detail, execution and all that stuff has to continue to go up.”

On Thursday, Finch told Paul Allen on KFXN-FM 100.3 that Edwards now knows what deep postseason runs are going to look like.

“I think the physical and the mental fatigue that he needs to overcome as the series go on and on,” Finch told Allen. “The playoffs, in many ways, are kind of a war of attrition — whether it be injuries or stamina.”

Edwards is asked to carry a heavy load for Minnesota. He often has to take on a difficult defensive assignment while also supplying the bulk of the offense. That’s a lot, but it’s his reality. And if the Wolves are to push for a title, he has to be able to deliver night in and night out for two straight months.

Immediately after the Game 5 loss to Dallas, Edwards acknowledged exactly that.

“I’ve never played this deep into a basketball season. So now I know, like, OK, in order for me to be dominant in the third round and if we get past this and finally go to the Finals, I’ve got to train like I’m going to go to the playoffs,” he said. “So I can’t be missing training days, I can’t take days off, you know what I mean? I’ve got to be ready.”

Edwards said he didn’t train the previous offseason as though he was going to make a deep run with Minnesota. He plans to train this summer in the same way he did when he was entering his freshman year at Georgia, which he said was “the best shape of my life.” That period of time included different types of training that made him uncomfortable.

That’s all well and good, but perhaps what’s more valuable than the work done  in July to prepare for 11 months from now is the work done in January and February. There’s no better way to brace your body to go at a high intensity every other day during the playoffs than to do so in the regular season.

That’s something Edwards hasn’t done to date. Certainly, he always makes himself available. The guard — who will turn 23 in August — played 79 games in each of the past two regular seasons. But he does give some contests far more of his attention than others. You can circle games on the calendar when the schedule comes out that Edwards will likely downshift for.

For much of the past two seasons, Edwards simply wouldn’t compete at full throttle against cellar dwellers. He admitted as much late in the regular season.

“Usually these games I come out and don’t have no energy and look like I don’t want to be here, and Finchy been gettin’ on my (butt) about that the last couple games,” Edwards said during the regular season.

To his credit, Edwards turned it around in such contests, including a 51-point outing against Washington in the final week of the regular season. But those types of efforts — not outputs, but efforts — may need to become more of the norm if Edwards is to properly prepare his body for what’s to come when the season is on the line.

For the best teams, the regular season is about building habits that can carry them through the playoffs. Over his first six healthy NBA seasons, Michael Jordan scored below 15 points on just three occasions. Edwards did it 10 times this season alone on nights he was available for the whole game.

Scoring output isn’t always an indicator of anything, but for Edwards it often speaks to his mindset. Jordan may be too high of a bar for anyone else to be held to, but his nightly approach is one to which all — including Edwards — should aspire.

“I say this with respect, because I know (he was) in the conference finals — one (series win) away from the finals, and I know he has a lot on his shoulders — I think there’s a different level of stamina Ant can reach,” Rivers said to Russillo. “We had those comparisons to Mike and Kobe (Bryant)  and some of these guys that we’ve already thrown at Ant, and those are some heavy names. The one thing that we knew about those two guys is they did not get tired consistently. Their stamina was at an all-time high, whether that’s because of mental toughness, whether that’s because they lived in the gym. … There’s a different level of stamina with Ant.”

And, if he can find it within himself to reach it, look out.

“I know what it takes,” Edwards said, “and I’ll be ready.”

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