Anthony Edwards outplays Nikola Jokic as Wolves take Game 1

DENVER — If you ask another young star what it’s like to score 43 points in a 106-99 Game 1 win to start the second round and go into the building of the defending champs, he might call it a career playoff high of 43 points. Report performance.

If he’s really feeling himself, he might say that Saturday represented a seismic shift in the balance of power in the Western Conference when the Minnesota Timberwolves stole homecourt from the Denver Nuggets.

However, Wolves’ Anthony Edwards is unlike any other young star today. He won’t be like any other young star in league history.

“It’s not about introducing ourselves to anybody, we know who we are,” Edwards said when asked about Minnesota playing past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in two decades. “We come out and as long as we have each other’s backs, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”

When Kevin Garnett and the Wolves defeated the Sacramento Kings in the second round in 2004 to make the only conference finals appearance in franchise history, Edwards joked that he had never been born.

Regardless of the Wolves’ past woes in the postseason, the current team is having a moment. They are now 5-0 in the playoffs with a first-round win over the Phoenix Suns, and Edwards joins Kobe Bryant for the most consecutive 40-point performances by a player 22 or older in NBA postseason history. For ESPN statistics and information research.

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Edwards’ 119 points over his last three playoff games are the most by a Wolves player in a three-game stretch in team postseason history. He did it Saturday by outplaying the reigning NBA Finals MVP and a top-three finalist for this year’s regular-season MVP in Nikola Jokic.

“He’s a special player to be honest, I have a lot of respect for him, he can do everything on the floor,” Jokic said of Edwards. “You have to give him respect, how good he is, how talented he is.”

Jokic finished with 32 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals, but he shot 11-for-25 from the field (2-for-9 from 3) and coughed up a game-high seven turnovers. When asked how he could fare against the Wolves’ three-headed front line of Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and Nas Reed in Game 2, he quipped, “I should have a clone of myself.”

Edwards, meanwhile, went 17-for-29 with seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, two blocks and one turnover. Even more notable, he shot 7-of-10 on hotly contested jump shots in Game 1, according to the second spectrum. This postseason, he shot 53% on heavily contested jumpers, best in the NBA.

Despite the disparity in production between the two stars, Edwards still deferred to his opponent, while giving credit to his teammates for the result.

“It’s always fun to go against the best player in the world, it’s always fun to go against the best team in the world,” Edwards said. “Our guys came out and competed tonight. So, it’s not about me personally, it’s about my team. They also give me confidence.”

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Edwards went 5-for-5 from the field during the Wolves’ 18-4 run in the first seven minutes of the first quarter. The Nuggets fought back to take a 44-40 lead into halftime, holding every Minnesota player except Edwards to 6-of-27 shooting (22.2%). The Wolves trailed in the third, with Edwards saying he was “doing nothing” and “running up and down” while Karl-Anthony Towns went 5-for-5 for 11 points and Mike Conley went 11-of-14 for 4. – went to 4.

The fourth belongs to Edwards, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, and Nas Reed. Edwards, who was held scoreless in the fourth quarter of both of the Wolves’ regular-season losses to Denver, scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting to close things out. Reid scored 14 of 16 in the fourth — including 10 straight for the Wolves — to seal it.

“For a guy like me, who’s seen him grow from day one to where he is now, I think he’s a superstar in the making if not for him. [already] Now,” Reed said of Edwards. “He’s an amazing player and an amazing person off the court. … He’s a guy you want to be around.”

Minnesota plans to stick around in the playoffs for a little while longer, as evidenced by the “11” written in large black numbers on a whiteboard in the visitors’ locker room at Ball Arena after the game. That represents the number of wins the Wolves need to capture the first championship in team history this spring.

“He’s growing every day, he’s maturing every night,” Gobert said of Edwards. “So it’s fun to be a part of.”

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