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Wolves’ Anthony Edwards shakes off disastrous Game 7 start to climb another rung on NBA superstar ladder

The hard lesson learned by virtually every NBA superstar, from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James, is that you have to take your lumps before you move on to the next level. A rough shooting night, a poor defensive performance, failure in decisive moments – all of this is par for the course for any player who eventually ascends to the ranks of the all-time greats.

In Sunday night’s Game 7 against the Denver Nuggets, emerging face of the league Anthony Edwards was on track to experience the latest example of those familiar superstar growing pains. He was shooting horribly, unable to handle Denver’s constant double teams and trying to find the right balance between creating opportunities for his struggling teammates and taking it upon himself to come back in a game that was quickly slipping away from them.

“It was tough, man, because I couldn’t find my rhythm tonight,” Edwards said after the game. “So I just had to trust my teammates, man. They kept trapping me even though I was out, so I tried to make the right play.”

It got to the point where Wolves coach Chris Finch sat Edwards for three crucial minutes of the second quarter, during which they cut the Nuggets’ lead to seven points. In 20 minutes in the first half, Edwards was the team’s worst –14.

“I thought we were trying to play against Ant a lot and it was bogging us down a bit,” Finch said after the match. “When we took him out in the second quarter, we brought Kyle (Anderson) in, which loosened up the ball movement a little bit and we were able to get some other guys involved, just enough to feel the game.”

Most 22-year-olds wouldn’t agree to sit on the bench for long in the biggest game of their career. Edwards certainly didn’t do it either, but his ability to put his first half struggles behind him contributed to a remarkable second half from him and the Minnesota Timberwolves, earning to Edwards a double boost in the process.

Not only did he take the postseason pieces that we’ve learned are ultimately necessary for a player’s growth, but he also led the Timberwolves to their first Western Conference Finals appearance in ’20 years with a superb 98-90 road victory against the defending champions. Along the way, the Wolves overcame the largest halftime deficit of any Game 7 in NBA history.

Edwards had many of the usual offensive feats in the second half, including a few dunks and 12 of his 16 total points. But, to dive back into a game that seemed destined to become a formidable learning opportunity and nothing more, Edwards didn’t start throwing up shots with every glance toward the rim, or dribbling head-on through a sea of ​​Nuggets defenders. No, Edwards decided to focus on defense.

“There’s other ways to win a basketball game when you’re just not an offensive player, man. I’m not one-dimensional, I’m not just a guy who can score,” Edwards said afterward. victory. “I’m a guy that can go, whoever his best guard is, I can lock him down. So I feel like I did that on Jamal (Murray) in the third and fourth quarter, and That’s what changed the game.”

Edwards has never been shy about boasting about his own abilities, but he’s all for that bit of bragging. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was in the midst of another legendary playoff performance — 24 points in the first half alone on 8-of-15 shooting — until things took a violent turn in the second half, when he scored 11 points on 5 shots. 12 shots, including 1 of 7 at 3 points. The Wolves defense is so good you can never attribute its success to a single individual, but the pride Edwards took in slowing down Murray in the second half showed a maturity and leadership well beyond his 22 years .

Wrapping himself around Murray like an old turtleneck that was a little too tight, Edwards gave the Nuggets guard nightmarish flashbacks of Games 2 and 6 of the series, when it took 90 percent of his energy to even bring up the ball against Minnesota pressure. , strength, speed and length. When Edwards bullied Murray back until he was almost at midcourt late in the third quarter, then pickpocketed him and flew in for a dunk that gave Denver to go within two points, it started to look like the Wolves’ comeback might be real.

Finch told his team after the game that the Nuggets’ “tongues were on the floor” because of their wear and tear, and Edwards had everything to do with that – not just in Game 7, but throughout the series.

Most people will remember his dagger 3-pointer from the corner with just over three minutes left in Game 7, after which he talked his unique and consistent brand of trash to any Nuggets fan within earshot. But the only reason Edwards got that look was because of the harassing defense he played seconds before, worrying Murray to the point where he failed to detect Wolves veteran Mike Conley. rushing to steal the ball from him once again.

Even in the second half, Edwards didn’t shoot well. He was 5 of 17 in the final two quarters and 6 of 24 for the game. But despite his struggles, he posted a team-high plus-25 in the second half, a testament to the impact his defense and creation for his teammates had on the game.

For Edwards, making that kind of mid-game adjustment – ​​not only realizing his team needed to improve defensively to avoid elimination, but also going out there and doing it – is what real players are made of. superstars. Usually it takes a devastating loss for young players to realize that, but Edwards does it on the fly while his team continues to win. And as Minnesota prepares to open the conference finals against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, it hasn’t given us any reason to believe the winning streak will stop anytime soon.

News Source : www.cbssports.com
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