Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards struggling to get going in Western Conference Finals

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) drives against Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA basketball Western Conference finals, Friday, May 24, 2024, in Minneapolis. (Abbie Parr/AP)

MINNEAPOLIS — Anthony Edwards drove toward the lane with the time on the clock dwindling and the Minnesota Timberwolves clinging to a two-point lead on the Dallas Mavericks.

Edwards stopped at the foul line as three Mavericks defenders closed in, hesitating to shoot on another off night for the 22-year-old guard. He looked for a step-through to his right. Then he pivoted left, went airborne and, not seeing a path to the basket he liked, flicked a pass toward the sideline for Naz Reid that sailed out of bounds with 13 seconds to go.

Wolves coach Chris Finch could only wince after another possession gone wrong for his team. Then came the defensive gaffe, to make that turnover even worse.

Rudy Gobert switched with Jaden McDaniels to guard Luka Doncic at the top of the key, where the go-ahead 3-pointer was drained with 3 seconds left to give the Mavericks a 109-108 victory on Friday night.

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That’s the kind of clutch make the Wolves have been missing from their superstar so far in the Western Conference finals, down 2-0 in the series and heading to Dallas for Game 3 on Sunday.

“Same story as the other night: Turnovers in the guts of the game, not going to get it done,” Finch said.

Finch blamed himself for not calling timeout to get Mike Conley back in the game to handle the ball and initiate the offense as he did so deftly whenever he was on the court.

Edwards — who had 21 points on 5-for-17 shooting — is the player the Wolves want to have the ball the most, of course, but opponents in this postseason have continued to pack the paint with three, four or even five defenders collapsing to keep him from getting to the rim or pulling up to shoot.

“They’re just showing me crowds, man, sitting in the gaps. But I’m turning down a lot of shots, like my mid-ranges and stuff,” Edwards said. “I’m turning a lot of those down. But we’re getting open looks, so I ain’t trippin’.”

Indeed, Reid went 7 for 9 from 3-point range for a team-high 23 points. His last try at the buzzer was on line but bounced out. When Edwards threw away the ball on the previous possession, Reid was initially open in the corner and was cutting toward the wing when the pass went toward the spot he’d vacated.

Edwards said he was exhausted in Game 1, after the Wolves had just two off days following their spirited comeback from 20 points down to beat Denver on the road in Game 7 of the second-round series. This time, he played with a lot more energy on both ends — but his decision-making left plenty to be desired.

“In the first half I had a couple in-and-outs. I mean, you can’t control makes and misses in a game, so I’m not really stressing about me getting going, I guess, offensively,” said Edwards, who is shooting 11 for 33 in the series and is just 30 for 89 over his last five games. “Just keep making the right play and hopefully we come out with a win.”

Heightening the problem for the Wolves is the fact that second-leading scorer Karl-Anthony Towns is just 10 for 32 in the series — including 3 for 14 from 3-point range.

“Me and KAT, we can’t control the makes and misses. He had a couple in-and-out. I had about three or four of ’em,” Edwards said, “so it’s all good.”

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