MINNEAPOLIS — 30 minutes after the final buzzer sounded during Friday night’s stinker against Philly, there were two people still standing on the Target Center hardwood. One was a ball boy fetching rebounds and dishing passes. The other was Anthony Edwards.
After his first career NBA start, Edwards was putting in work. Starting shooting guard Malik Beasley referenced the No. 1 picks wonderful work ethic in the presser two night’s ago. While a popular buzz phrase, it also makes its way through every arena and practice facility across the league, sometimes heard so often it almost becomes second nature to roll your eyes. Instead, eyebrows were raised.
It didn’t take long to see that extra work pay off in the case of the Wolves’ prized and powerful 19-year-old wing. Sunday night against the suddenly decent Cavs, Anthony Edwards played like the #1 pick in his second start. He was phenomenal in a 109-104 win that felt super unlikely after a first half that saw the Cavs take a page out of everyone else's book and completely pound the interior with 48 paint points, the most by a Wolves opponent in a half of play since the 2006-07’ season, per Alan Horton. (Cleveland finished with 72 points in the paint but had 19 turnovers and only 4 threes.)
BACK TO EDWARDS, who dazzled in all facets of the game. The toolkit was on full display. Suddenly, the game looked slow. Edwards agreed when asked what the difference was, saying, quite simply, “Probably just the game slowing down.”
One game, sure, fine, I get it. But that doesn’t GET MY CAPS LOCK UNSTUCK. ANTHONY EDWARDS GREW UP TONIGHT AT TARGET CENTER. WOLVES WIN.— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) February 1, 2021
The game was always going to slow down, though this felt like a sudden turn. On this evening, he felt one step ahead of Cleveland. Maybe we should start to believe that eventually, this is all going to come easy to the Georgia product because it certainly looked that way. Edwards was processing the action like a seasoned pro, not someone who has played as many NBA games as years he’s lived. There it was, all of the goods that made him the most desirable prospect in the eyes of many scouts and, most importantly, Gersson Rosas.
He showed the smooth catch-and-shoot trey—nothing but the bottom of the net, net only, swish, as an old diehard Wolves fan used to say during free throws. His decisions were wise when driving off the bounce, with an understanding of when to kick it out that he hasn’t consistently display early on. He was composed but electric. A beautiful euro-step and lay-up in transition would’ve had the building booming in year’s past. If that weren’t enough, Edwards ferociously attacked Andre Drummond, driving right into his chest with immense strength, ripping through contact, and finishing with finesse. All the goods.
It’s been a shaky start for Edwards, but there’s a dynamite player in there. Maybe we’ll look back and think this was one of the night’s he grew up enough to see the light that could guide his growth. This was the night we saw the light, too, and if there’s anything that keeps Wolves’ fans coming back for more, even as another season has gone off the tracks early in the journey, it’s the promise of youth. Realistic or not. It’s the youth that allows imaginations to run wild, fueled by eternal hope that one of these years, or maybe decades, some of these youngsters are going to be real game-changers. (Not named Karl or Kevin.)
#1 pick Antman Edwards displaying those genetic lottery winning traits with the blow by (later Garland) and bump (knocking back 300 pound drummy Drummond!) and fluid change of direx for finish.— fendo (@dancingwithnoah) February 1, 2021
More, pls pic.twitter.com/RcwLMx8yp2
There were plenty of other reasons the Wolves finally ended their crusty stretch of losses. Malik Beasley is the biggest bright spot of the season with his tenacious attitude and delightful scoring chops. His 23 points, powered by a gorgeous jumper, almost all felt pivotal in keeping the game from crashing down. Ricky Rubio picked up the pieces, providing what we’ve come to expect but have rarely been treated to in his reunion season. 8 points, 8 dimes in 20 minutes. Leading the second unit, his 153.8 Offensive Rating was the best in the game.
Ed Davis gave Drummond everything he had even if 25 points, 22 rebounds, and 4 assists for Andre is the monstrous type of stat-line from opposing centers that have come to haunt the Town-less Wolves. (Ed had 6 stocks! His Defensive Rating was a ridiculously low 64.4 in 23 minutes.) D’Angelo Russell struggled yet again; his shot selection and defensive ineptitude can drive any basketball fan insane. But he did in fact hit 5-10 from deep, including two in crunch time when they needed buckets. If anything, ripping tons of threes and being a closer has to happen for D’Lo.
Then, there’s Jaden McDaniels. The defensive level he’s already playing at (age 19) is shocking in the best of ways. My excitement for him is through the roof. “How about Jaden McDaniels stepping up? ... He was a beast tonight,” said D’Angelo Russell. When asked about pre-draft conversations that surrounded him—specifically the noise he wasn’t NBA ready—he kept the same usual, humble demeanor fans will grow to love. “People say what they want. I know what I’m capable of.”
THIS RECAP IS supposed to be all about Anthony Edwards, though. That’s how impressive he was when the Wolves desperately needed him to be.
“He’s seeing things and talking about, ‘Hey, I see the low man pulling in, I got to pass to the corner out of a certain set.’ We’re asking him to continue to grow and he’s doing that. He didn’t have a lot of defensive game plan mistakes, which is a big jump for him,” said Ryan Saunders.
Viewers seemed to notice one other crucial factor at play: Anthony Edwards and Malik Beasley have a budding relationship built from a similar energy and emotion they play with. Both are uber-competitive, often jawing at other players and benches. There’s a hunger inside of them, a swagger, a confidence, and the spirit of a real gamer that always comes out. Their one-two punch was an infectious jolt.
DID BEAS & ANT ED JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS TONIGHT? pic.twitter.com/iUoHm6uGRo— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) February 1, 2021
One game is only one game, sure, but in the words of Beasley, “sometimes you gotta take the little victories, and this a huge victory.” Anthony Edwards showing out in a Wolves win assured that.