With the Timberwolves likely to lose this playoff series to the Nuggets, no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.
But a silver lining appears around the dark clouds that surround this season of storm wolves.
Anthony Edwards has shown in his young career that he’s fearless and can create in big moments, and at 21 years old, he’s carrying a flawed team on his back and deserves a playoff win against the No. 1 seed. Western Conference.
“I didn’t pass the ball. I was taking the shot. I’m going to live whether I win or lose the game. I make the shot.
Sterling saved the Wolves’ season in the third quarter and iced the game at the end of regulation and overtime in a 114-108 victory Sunday night at Target Center.
Edwards scored 34 points, his third straight game of 30 or more. He scored 16 in the third quarter that lifted the Wolves from a nine-point hole to go into the fourth. After Game 3, he told teammates the streak wasn’t over. He proved prophetic, at least for one night.
“That’s the truth. It’s 3-0. You have to win one more game to send us home,” Edwards said. “I was telling the truth. … I’m proud. I don’t want to say I’m blown away. I don’t want to say I’ve been blown away in my life. So, I took it personally tonight.”
Game 5 is in Denver on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
Edwards is not perfect by his own admission. While he took a few foul shots, he felt he contributed more to the Wolves’ 12-point lead at 2 minutes, 52 seconds. This caused him to say that he actually played “terribly”.
“We go up to 12 and I take three bad threes, three terrible possessions,” Edwards said. “I got us out of the game.”
Such is life for a 21-year-old on the playoff stage. Edwards said the next time he’s in that situation, he’ll try to drive to the basket or look for open midrange shots.
But the Wolves aren’t even in that position to blow a lead Sunday if Edwards doesn’t have the rest of the game Sunday.
Then Denver cut the Wolves lead to 109-102 with 31.2 seconds left and Edwards shimmied over Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon for a three-pointer with 11.5 seconds left. He was good with that shot selection.
“I didn’t pass the ball,” Edwards said. “I was taking the shot. I was going to live whether I lost the game or we won. I was going to make the shot.”
Anyone observing the Wolves and their emotionally taxing season figured they would roll for the Nuggets on Sunday night. But Edwards was their emotional heartbeat.
“I know my team,” he said. “I know they trust me to take us.”
Edwards didn’t let a rowdy crowd sit on its hands for much of the night, and wanted teammates to postpone their holiday travel plans for a few days.
“I thought we played with a sense of urgency that we haven’t had all season,” guard Mike Conley said.
Conley mentioned how he wanted to change the energy around the team as of late, so he did what his teammates, especially Edwards, wanted to do — play the video game “Call of Duty” online.
“Trying to change the mojo,” Conley said. “If we’re doing it, let’s do it and have fun.”
Edwards said he hung around with teammate Karl-Anthony Downs on Saturday night and was proud of Downs for defending Denver center Nikola Jokic, despite the two-time NBA MVP scoring 43 points. City limited Jokic from being a playmaker to setting up teammates for open shots. Outside of Jokic, Denver shot 39%. Downs finished with 17 points and fouled out in overtime.
“Damn, the ant told you a lot,” Downes said with a laugh. “We have a great relationship and a great friendship. … To spend time with each other in the midst of all this, you’re so caught up in work, you don’t get to enjoy each other’s company. … I think that translates. Today.”
Edwards helped shift the momentum, and he praised guard Nickiel Alexander-Walker, who chased Denver’s Jamaal Murray all night and forced Murray to go 8-for-21 (19 points).
“He was the MVP tonight,” Edwards said.
Alexander-Walker hit two big threes from the left corner that, in addition to his tenacious defense, built the Wolves’ lead.
“After that Game 2, I just took it personally and tried to do my best,” Alexander-Walker said of Murray, who had 40 points in Game 2. Knowing that I’m the next asset, trying to disrupt his rhythm, be as physical as I can.”
At the last moment, it was Edwards’ turn again. He isolated the ball on the right wing and Gordon guarded him. He took a hard hit, and Gordon looked like he was skating on ice at the Xcel Energy Center instead of the Target Center hardwood.
Edwards took the time to open himself up and land a shot. Even if he missed at the end of regulation, this shot was truly one of his nights.
At least for one night, Edwards wouldn’t let them lose.
“I can’t wipe,” Edwards said. “It can’t be a big story if I say I’m wiped out.”