Memphis – As the Timberwolves’ 130-117 playoff victory over the Memphis Grizzlies was about to end on Saturday, players gathered for a jump ball on Center Court.
They had to stay there for a moment, as officials waited for the green light from ESPN that it was okay to start. While standing around them, Anthony Edwards went to Karl-Anthony Towns, and they had a quiet moment amidst the wonderful FedEx Forum.
Townes said he called Edwards his own personal surname, a non-printable title in a newspaper, and offered some simple advice.
“I just told him to go be him,” Townes said. “Be that man.”
Edwards said his relationship with Towns has grown a lot over the past season, and they can be honest with each other. They shared this last minute before marching on the biggest stage of the season.
“We can talk to each other in the heat of battle, the heat of the moment,” Edwards said. “In the beginning we always say, ‘I want this’ or ‘Make sure we do this.’ We exchanged that between each other and that was it.”
They clasped their fists and went to work.
Towns played like the All-Star title he earned after a night out in Tuesday’s game against the Clippers with 29 points, 13 rebounds. Edwards played like an all-star announcing his full arrival with 36 points and six assists.
The Wolves don’t have much of a playoff history, but Edwards now holds the record for the most points scored by a Wolves player in the first playoff game of his career. Wolverhampton also won their second playoff game since 2004 and will play the second game on Tuesday in Memphis.
Edwards and Towns were the two reasons behind this, helping to make up for 2 nights versus 11 nights from D’Angelo Russell. Malik Beasley was on 23 off the bench as Wolves led most of the night and answered every run from Memphis despite 32 points from Ja Morant.
For Towns, Saturday’s performance was a chance to right what happened on Tuesday, when he had no part in facing the Clippers. No matter what kind of coverage Memphis throws, deal with it. He’s kept out of trouble, even putting the Grizzlies’ vaunted rim guard Garen Jackson Jr. on a poster in the third quarter.
BOXSCORE: Wolves 130, Memphis 117
“I really feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Townes said. “It shouldn’t be something we should be celebrating, like, ‘Oh, I got a chance to play a really good game on the national stage. You should be really proud and excited. “I’m supposed to do it… I don’t want to act like something that should be unnatural. It’s what I have to do every night, especially now.”
Coach Chris Finch said of all the things that worried him about entering the series, Townes’ performance wasn’t one of them.
“He’s a fantastic player,” Finch said. “That’s what enabled him to perform. I wasn’t worried at all.” “…He’s a superstar. There haven’t been many nights like Tuesday, so it wasn’t like it was some kind of pattern or anything like that.
There was a pattern, albeit small, for Cities not living up to his lofty standards in post-season play. Townes shrugged off his struggles in a pressure cooker environment dating back to his first playoff streak in 2018.
Edwards seemed to feel no pressure at all.
He said he especially enjoys playing Memphis due to trash talk by fans, even from kids.
“The kids were the worst kids,” Edwards said. Even at 8 years old, 10 years old, ‘Anthony, go and sit down! …it’s fun. Basketball is fun for me. Love her. “
It looked as it did. Edwards shot 12 for 23 and came with a bucket, from everywhere on Earth, almost every time the wolves needed one.
“I love my shots,” Edwards said. “Whatever shot I take, whether it’s a back trey or a mid-range descent. Or a float or some other throw. Whatever my shot is, I love it. Sometimes the coach may not like it, but I love shooting.”
Edwards said the freedom Finch gives him and the team helps create shows like the one he got on Saturday.
“I love Vinci,” Edwards said. “He lets you play, sure, until the game gets a little tight and you might take a shot he doesn’t like, he might yell at you a little bit, but other than that, it’s all love.”
There were no complaints Saturday.
“He’s a special talent,” Townes said. “I think we all know how special he is. He showed it day and night. When he plays basketball at that kind of level, it’s almost unstoppable. Unstoppable.”