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McDaniels, Reid boost Wolves into Western Conference finals

DENVER – After last season's first-round exit at the hands of the Nuggets, the Timberwolves were left wondering what the series could have looked like if they had two important players — Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid — available.

McDaniels had punched his ticket out of the playoffs when he broke his hand with a swing against a hard wall in the tunnel near the Wolves bench in the regular-season finale, while Reid had a broken wrist he suffered late in the season that kept him out of postseason action.

The Wolves finally got an answer to that question in their second-round victory over Denver that sent them to the Western Conference finals, which begin Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks at Target Center.

McDaniels tied Karl-Anthony Towns with a team-high 23 points in Game 7. That followed his 21-point performance in Game 6. It marked the first time in his career, regular season or postseason, that McDaniels had 20 or more points in consecutive games.

"We got so many versatile players that could go get 20 any game," McDaniels said. "Next game it might be Naz or Nickeil [Alexander-Walker] or KAT or whoever. Just do whatever you can to win it, even if it's not your game."

McDaniels spent a good amount of time guarding Jamal Murray in the series, but he also defended Michael Porter Jr. more as the series went on and Anthony Edwards took over some of the duties on Murray. Porter did not score more than eight points in Games 4 through 7.

As he ended his postgame remarks Sunday, Edwards had one more thing to say before leaving Denver, a shoutout to McDaniels.

"Jaden McDaniels," Edwards said. "Jaden McDaniels was the MVP of the last two series. Once again, he did it again. Jaden McDaniels."

And with that, Edwards got up from the podium and left for the team bus. Earlier in the news conference, Edwards and Towns also made special mention of Reid's performance, as Reid bookended the series with standout fourth quarters in Games 1 and 7.

Reid had eight of his 11 points in the fourth, and he added two big blocks on Nikola Jokic for good measure.

"Effort, effort, effort," Reid said of the blocks. "Coming in as the sixth man, I'm just trying to make effort plays, plays to win the game, whether it's rebounds, steals, blocking shots, scoring, whatever the case may be. My offense really hasn't been going in the postseason but just trying to get other ways to stay in the game."

Reid was emotional and frustrated earlier in the game on the bench, but he worked through that to deliver in the fourth.

Edwards looked down at a stat sheet that was in front of him and saw Reid was a minus-5 for the game. This caused him to declare that the plus-minus statistic is "trash."

"Naz came in, he played great defense on Jokic, got a couple offensive rebounds, hit a big shot, made a big dunk, got a couple of steals. He played hard, man. We tell him all the time, 'Stay with it, just stay with it.' And he stayed with it tonight, and it showed, for sure."

Added Towns: "Anyone who doubted him being a Sixth Man of the Year, the silence will be louder."

McDaniels and Reid, who are also close friends, were silent in the playoffs a season ago. This time, they made some noise.