Anthony Edwards may return to Timberwolves sooner than expected. But they need to win games without him
There are ways for Minnesota to win games, even without Edwards and the still missing Karl-Anthony Towns
Minnesota continues to receive good news on the Anthony Edwards’ injury front. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said Saturday the ankle sprain was not as bad as the team initially feared.
On Sunday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Edwards was out of his walking boot and moving around more as swelling subsided. Minnesota listed Edwards as questionable to play in New York on Monday against the Knicks.
The 21-year-old guard seems unlikely to actually suit up at the Garden, but his progress is encouraging for the Timberwolves. His return, whenever it happens, will be welcomed for a team in apparent freefall. The Wolves have lost five of their last six games in a descent down the Western Conference play-in picture.
Minnesota entered Monday seeded ninth in the ever-changing West.
If Edwards misses Monday, and even Wednesday’s home contest against disorganized Atlanta, that can’t automatically equal a pair of Timberwolves’ losses.
“We got to keep our head up. Got to keep fighting,” Finch said. “See what we look like and who’s available to play come Monday, and got to stay positive right now, that’s all we can do.”
The Timberwolves are clearly worse sans Edwards. He’s the team’s motor, barometer and lifeblood. But there are ways for Minnesota to win games, even without Edwards and the still missing Karl-Anthony Towns. Finch noted after the loss to the Bulls — the game in which Edwards went down — that Minnesota still has players who can score. The path to doing so will be different.
“We’ll be less of an iso team. Obviously you lose Ant’s dynamic big shot-making. Of course you lose everything he brings,” Finch said. “We’re going to have to rely more on ball movement, body movement. More on just pass-pass combinations. Those types of things.”
That means more combinations, such as the two-point guard look of Mike Conley and Jordan McLaughlin that Finch employed in the loss Saturday to Toronto. Those two are ball movers who feast off flow. Finch also likes the three-man game that Conley, Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson can run, which often sets up good looks off screen-and-rolls and other set-heavy offense.
The defense should remain solid without Edwards. Yes, he’s a good on-ball defensive weapon, but he also gets lost when playing off the ball on that end more than many of his teammates. Lineups that feature the likes of Conley, Anderson, Gobert, Taurean Prince and Jaden McDaniels are equally as adept on the defensive end.
Frankly, the Edwards- and Towns-less Timberwolves have the potential to look more like a Finch-coached group. It was during Minnesota’s COVID-19 outbreak in the 2021-22 season that Minnesota started to really generate a rhythm-based offense that carried forward through the end of the season.
With just 10 games remaining in the regular season, it’s likely too late for such an evolution to take place in the current campaign, but such an approach — one rooted in ball movement, rhythm and tempo — could at least lead to a couple much-needed wins for Minnesota in the interim.
“We have things we need to go through,” Finch said. “We’ll just have to sift through it and figure it out.”
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