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Why Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards rises to the occasion: ‘I try to do everything to make us win the game’

The key now is for the play to match the attitude. Luckily for Minnesota, when the games matter most, it usually does.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards celebrates against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second quarter during Game 3 of their 2022 first-round NBA playoff series April 21, 2022, at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Brad Rempel / USA Today Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Anthony Edwards knows he played a large part in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ late collapse in Tuesday’s Game 5 playoff series loss in Memphis.

From poor shot selection to an ill-time steal attempt, Edwards helped create the crack in the door that the Grizzlies busted through in the final quarter to take a 3-2 series lead in the best-of-7 series.

He knows that, he admits that, and the 20-year-old guard appears ready to make an amends for that. Just minutes after Tuesday’s loss, Edwards already had his sights on Friday’s must-win Game 6 at Target Center.

“I’m looking forward to Friday because all the pressure is on, know what I’m sayin’?” Edwards said. “It’s time to show up.”

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When the clock strikes “time to show up,” Edwards is usually the first in line. That was evident in the play-in victory over the Clippers and again in Game 1 in Memphis. It was Edwards who tallied 33 points and 14 rebounds in Minnesota’s emotional early-season victory over Miami to score its first five-game winning streak in seemingly forever, staring down Jimmy Butler in the process. It was Edwards who dropped 40 points and nine rebounds in a hotly-contested, two-point win over the Damian Lillard-led Trail Blazers in Portland, a previous house of horrors for Minnesota.

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So in a win-or-go-home situation at 8 p.m. Friday at Target Center — in a nationally-televised game that will be the only NBA contest played all evening — it’s a good bet Edwards will indeed answer the call.

Why is that always the case in the biggest moments?

“I try to do everything to make us win the game,” Edwards said.

Whether that’s scoring, hitting the glass or defending the other team’s best player. It doesn’t matter. That’s when Edwards’ drive to win hits its highest peak.

“Do everything I can to try and leave the game saying, ‘I gave it my all to try and win,’ ” Edwards said.

That’s not to say that isn’t true in most games. But it’s a good bet Edwards’ focus was a little sharper at practice Thursday. He was called out during film study for his “hero ball” approach in Game 5. Immediately after the game, he noted what a silly play it was to try to steal the in-bounds pass in the closing seconds, giving Ja Morant a free runway to the rim for the game-winning shot.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane (22) guards Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) as he shoots the ball during the second half of Game 5 of their 2022 NBA playoff series Tuesday, April 26, 2022, at FedExForum in Memphis.
Christine Tannous / USA Today Sports

Some players shrink under that criticism and accountability, but it only seems to get the best out of Edwards.

Edwards wants to take those late-game shots, and correctly noted he had “a lot of in and outs” in the closing quarter. But he knows that doesn’t mean his approach was correct.

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“Sometimes it is a problem, because my teammates have no rhythm. And I pass them the ball with 2 seconds left and I don’t have a shot and it’s always a bad shot then,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a problem, sometimes it’s not. But when it’s in the fourth quarter and we need it, I got to attack more and get off it early.”

Edwards said it was his fault Minnesota dropped Game 5 and is in this current predicament. Yet that responsibility doesn’t weigh on him. After a regular-season loss to Chicago, Edwards told teammates Taurean Prince and Jarred Vanderbilt that he can live with going to bed knowing he was the reason for an “L.”

“That doesn’t bother me at all,” Edwards said. “I feel like (Friday), if we’re in the same situation, I’m going to make the shots.”

He feels he dug the Wolves this hole, so now he’ll try to get them out of it — whatever it takes. He suggested that may entail hitting the glass harder after Memphis, specifically Brandon Clarke, owned the boards in the fourth quarter of Game 5.

“I will go rebound the ball. You will see a lot of that (Friday),” Edwards said. “I will have a lot of rebounds at the end of the game, I promise you that. Win, lose or draw, I will have a lot of rebounds.”

His everlasting confidence gives him the belief that he will do so. The same trait that allows him to think every shot he hoists up is a great one instills the same belief that he’ll always bounce back with greatness.

Edwards was asked how he’s feeling ahead of the pivotal Game 6. And he certainly didn’t sound like a man still moping about a recent loss.

His response: “Better than ever.”

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The key now is for the play to match the attitude. Luckily for Minnesota, when the games matter most, it usually does.

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