Fatigue setting in for Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards after Superman-like stretch

Anthony Edwards delivered a couple of brilliant attacks in the third quarter of the Timberwolves’ game against Chicago on Sunday in Minneapolis.

After he knifed his way to the basket for consecutive buckets, a familiar scene appeared to be playing out at Target Center — a third-quarter Edwards explosion.

A minute later, Edwards attacked immediately off the catch and again got right to the rim. And he missed. Two minutes after that, he found himself in a transition opportunity. Usually, in that spot, the 22-year-old guard is an unstoppable freight train. But in this instance, Edwards seemingly slow played it, wound up in slew of traffic and didn’t touch the rim, then slowly made his way back down the floor on defense.

On the next possession, Edwards had a prime look at a put-back attempt, and threw it off the heel of the rim. Edwards’ usual explosion was thwarted, and he missed his final three shots of the quarter in the 109-101 defeat.

Edwards is still playing high-level basketball, as he has all season. He has significantly raised his level of play in the absence of Karl-Anthony Towns. The offense is running almost entirely through him, and he’s handled it beautifully with top-tier decision-making.

Edwards is carrying that offensive load while also being asked, often, to take on difficult defensive matchups. And, entering Monday’s games, he was one of eight players in the NBA to log more than 2,500 minutes this season.

He’s doing this as a 22-year-old in his fourth NBA season. To put that in perspective, at least four of the starters on North Carolina State’s current Final Four team are six or more months older than Edwards.

So it’s entirely possible that, at this point in the season, fatigue could be a factor for the young all-star.

Edwards was Superman for Minnesota in the team’s first seven games without the injured Towns, averaging 31.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. His blocked shot against Indiana and dunk over John Collins were both iconic. That was one of the more scintillating stretches of basketball in recent memory, and something few players can deliver.

But it’s possible that type of workload has caught up to him for the time being. Over the Timberwolves’ last five games, Edwards is averaging just 19 points per game, shooting 40 percent from the field and 23 percent from deep. He has missed his last 16 3-point attempts.

“Probably just one of those times. People go through it,’ Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “Jaden went through it a little while ago, Naz is kinda going through it a little bit at the same time.”

But this just doesn’t happen to Edwards, who lamented his 0-for-6 shooting performance from deep in Sunday’s defeat.

“It’s bad,” he said.

And every shot attempt, he said, “felt good.” The all-star guard said he thought beforehand that each one of those misses was going through the net. And yet each of them hit the front rim.

“So that just mean I ain’t got no legs,” Edwards said. “So I’ve got to figure that part out.”

To Edwards’ credit, he’s pressing through it in the best way he knows how. He grabbed 11 rebounds against Chicago. He had 13 boards against Cleveland 10 days ago. Even as his fuel tank lessens, his effort does not. And he’s still making the game easier for those around help, which has helped teammates such as McDaniels, Reid, Kyle Anderson and Mike Conley flourish. His presence on the court is invaluable for the Timberwolves as they chase the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and sport a stated goal to be playing as well as possible heading into the postseason.

But the team at its peak undoubtedly includes Edwards playing at the peak of his powers. Perhaps a a game or two off down the stretch would serve him well. The Timberwolves are staring at another series of back-to-back games the next two days, with a game Tuesday against Houston and one Wednesday against Toronto. The latter presents itself as a prime opportunity to potentially give the guard a well-deserved day off, should Finch choose to take that route.

Or maybe Edwards can simply play the life back into his legs. There is a week off between the end of the regular season and the playoffs to recharge the batteries. But even Superman could use the occasional day of rest.

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