MINNEAPOLIS — For all his explosive athleticism and all his incredible talent, there’s nothing stronger in Anthony Edwards’ game than the smile that graces his face when he takes charge.
can stimulate a Timberwolves A team that has been very difficult to watch at various points this season. It can bring the respective target center crowd to its feet. It can bring an opponent who is struggling through a difficult patch of the season to his knees.
After a slow, frustrating, teeth-grinding start to the season, Edwards is smiling more often these days. He finds his sweet spot as a playmaker and scorer, helping the Timberwolves transform from a team that was near the top of the league with poor body language to a sloppy bunch on a three-game winning streak.
“I think this is the happiest I’ve seen in a while,” Naz Red said Monday night after a 116-106 win over Dallas Mavericks. “This is where it begins. When you’re at your best, I feel like you bring that energy and that excitement. It’s just a domino effect, and it carries over to the next person and now everyone is excited about the next person.”
Edwards posted 27 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks and just 1 turnover against the Mavericks, one night after a massive streak of 37 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in a 150-126 win over Chicago Bulls. The Wolves improved to 16-15 on the season, leapfrogging Dallas (15-16) and Utah (17-16) to move into eighth place in the Western Conference.
For the first time this season, the Timberwolves were the team brimming with good vibes while their opponent was the one who seemed completely uncomfortable and disconnected.
Mavericks star Luka Donjic He seemed to be going through the motions Monday night, lifting off-balance jumpers on offense, pressing for foul calls and shaking his head at teammates after flips. He may have been hampered by the right quadriceps strain that kept him out of the last game, and it was certainly hampered by Jaden McDaniels’ long arms and quick feet. Dončić was 1-for-9 when he was closely guarded by McDaniels and finished with 19 points on 5-for-17 with four turnovers.
The only time Donjic looked like him on Monday night was when he pulled McDaniels on and off Jaylen Noel On consecutive possessions in the second quarter. Noel took back the paint and fouled one and hit a step back 3 on the other. But McDaniels and Edwards W Austin Rivers It all made him work for whatever he got, and with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Dončić seemed to have had enough.
After not getting a call on the offensive end, Dončić returned to the court and muttered something to referee Rodney Mott. There was no declarative movement or gesture, but Mott gave him two quick technical fouls and sent him off. Dallas coach Jason Kidd stormed the court to protest and was soon evicted as well. Edwards hit all four free throws to put the Wolves up 20, and they’ve never looked back.
It was the culmination of a night of frustration and uninspired play from the Mavericks, the second night in a row the opposition looked completely out of touch.
The Bulls came into goal post Sunday night with six losses in eight games and showed no sense of urgency and less willingness to play lick defense. The Wolves pinned the Bulls’ franchise record for points, shooting over 61 percent from the field, and had a lot of fun while doing it.
Anthony Edwards Windmill pic.twitter.com/ahCUynuRzy
– Minnesota Timberwolves December 19, 2022
After a start to the season in which he looked sluggish and, by his own admission, was a bit out of shape, rebounding back into step Edwards in a big way. With Rudy Goubert And the Cities Carl Anthony Due to injuries, the Timberwolves turned their offense at Edwards, putting the ball in his hands and asking him to be a creator and playmaker with a higher degree than ever.
There was a time when Edwards was reluctant to take on this responsibility, saying he did not feel as comfortable with the ball as he did with it. Now in his third season, and recognizing that his team needs him now, Edwards is embracing the role. He has 27 assists in the last three games, injecting the once-stagnant Wolves offense with ball movement that creates wide-open shots and smiling faces.
The ramifications are far-reaching. Angelo Russell He’s gone from baseline looking torn between looking for his own shot and having his teammates go for an off-the-ball weapon that burns the net into the catch and goal chances that come from Edwards’ decision-making. He scored nine points on 4-for-13 shooting against Dallas but in the previous six games had averaged 26.7 points on 52 percent shooting from depth.
Russell said after scoring 28 points and hitting seven 3s against the Bulls. Then he shows up with the rest of the guys – Austin, Kyle Anderson, the Nazis.
But Edwards does more than drop a dime for his teammates. He still attacks the edge, putting pressure on the defense to hold him accountable while staying home with his teammates spread out around his half of the field.
– Minnesota Timberwolves December 20, 2022
Suddenly, there’s an influx into the Timberwolves’ offense, and it results in 3s finally starting to fall. In their first 28 games of the season, the Wolves have been 25th in the Championship NBA 33 percent conversion rate in 3 seconds. During that three win streak, they finished first in the league with 47.5 percent. It is a small sample size, but the eye test is consistent with the analyses. Wolves players seem more comfortable shooting in rhythm, and snippets open up the offense.
“The ball is popping,” said Rivers, who scored 16 points and hit 3 of 4 three-pointers. “You take what the defense (gives) to. You can see he’s reading it now. They’re doubling it, they’re doubling it, you can see he’s looking, he’s throwing it to the pop.”
This spherical motion, too pic.twitter.com/TZI658492t
– Minnesota Timberwolves December 20, 2022
“When you play ball in every game, you can see it all,” Edwards said after the win over Chicago. “After a while, I’m in the corner, I come, I just think, like, shoot. But now I’m on the ball every time, so I can see everything. So it’s very dope. It’s really fun, like I’m having the most fun.” It’s the most fun to play basketball ever.”
He means everything to these Timberwolves. For all the veteran talent they have in Towns, Gobert and Russell, this team has never been so fun to watch and never more connected as a group than when Edwards is out there flying over the field, attacking the rim and smiling all the way.
Reid was another filling power at the center for the two big cap companies. After leaving a Bulls game early with a shoulder and neck injury, Reid returned to the starting lineup against Dallas and worked his way up with the Christian Wood. Reed blew it up again and again, scoring 27 points along with 13 rebounds and stealing two runs.
“Whatever we ask of him, he keeps delivering,” said coach Chris Finch.
Sheesh, ooze. pic.twitter.com/GizqhVWGVV
– Minnesota Timberwolves December 20, 2022
During the timeout, Reed would place an ice pack on his shoulder to try to calm the pain. With Gobert and Towns out and the adults backing up Nathan Knight And the Luke Garza Early in trouble, Reid played 40 minutes. Whatever it takes for a team to finally feel good about itself.
“Everybody wants to see the next guy happy,” said Reed. “That’s exactly what it’s supposed to be like.”
The next challenge is to maintain this cohesion and happiness when Joubert and Townes return. Joubert should be back somewhat soon after recovering from a sprained ankle. The Towns will still likely be out for a while with a strained right calf. When the two were in the lineup, the Wolves’ offense seemed pointless and clogged. Edwards seems to struggle like everyone else to find space on the rim and hit bowlers on the perimeter.
But Wolves believe there are signs of progress even before all the injuries force them to look like a small ball. Edwards began to see some of the passes he had lost earlier in the season. Before he sprained his ankle, Joubert was playing hard, flaming rebounds, and supporting the Wolves defense. Russell was finding his groove as a shooter.
“We’ve had so many injuries and so much inconsistency with so many things we’ve done this year that it’s really hard to assess what we had or find a rhythm,” said Finch. “Now we have a rhythm. The guys who deserve to play will play.”
The Wolves could be forgiven if they weren’t ready yet to discuss in detail how to re-integrate their lost stars. It’s been a tough season, and now they’re just starting to have some fun. Towns and Gobert were in the middle of the celebration as they watched from the sideline, cheering for players who were going after the Bulls and Mavs.
After the match on Monday night, the dressing room was abuzz with noise. Russell and Rivers were cracking jokes, Edwards got into a cold bathtub to take care of his body and Reid and McDaniels talked about how they drew energy and inspiration from each other. It’s only three games, but it has to start somewhere, and it starts with Edwards.
“As Nas said, he thinks they feed off of my energy, and I feed off of theirs,” Edwards said.
In the final two minutes of the game, Edwards was one pass away from his first triple-double. He moved to his left, and then found Reed at the top of the corkscrew, one of his favorite places on Earth. The Reed 3 went halfway down the tube and came out, and Edwards put his hands to his head in feigned disgust.
With the game in hand, Finch sent the players to the bench, not wanting to risk injury to a player exploding on the scene. Edwards threw his hands up and lobbed the ball at Finch in gleeful disgust.
“He knew it was all love,” Edwards said, with a bright smile on his face.
As he contemplated his missed shot cost Edwards a triple-double and himself a 30-point night, all Reed could do was smile.
“I’m like, ‘Brother, he’s supposed to fall,'” Reed said. “It’s fun. Things like that are fun. It’s just winning basketball.”
For the first time this season, the Timberwolves are having fun. It is no coincidence that victories follow.
(picture Anthony Edwards(: Matt Crone/USA Today)