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Mini surge enough for Minnesota to top Memphis

Minnesota did not play particularly well against the Memphis Grizzlies for large stretches Wednesday at Target Center.

Playing in the second half of a back-to-back, the Timberwolves were lethargic on both ends of the floor. But a surge midway through the third quarter proved to be enough, as a string of stops leading to transition buckets on the other end lifted the Wolves to a 110-101 victory.

And, as is often the case, Anthony Edwards led the revival.

A bystander for much of the first half, the 22-year-old was seemingly energized when he was switched onto Grizzlies star big Jaren Jackson Jr. on the defensive end. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch noted Edwards asked for the matchup earlier in the quarter, and when he finally got it, he did the job well.

“He took the Jackson matchup and shut his water off and turned the game around on both ends in the third when we got down 10 or whatever it was,” Finch said. “Really it was all about his defense setting the tone, and then we were able to kind of catch a rhythm on offense for the first time.”

The challenge of guarding Memphis’ best remaining player — Memphis (20-39) is sans Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart in a lost season — lit a fire under Edwards, who was suddenly far more active on both ends of the floor. He matched Jackson’s physicality on the defensive end and started to attack the rim on offense via transition opportunities and cuts that exposed Memphis’ hyper-aggressive off-ball defense.

“He’s a competitor, and I know the kind of guy he is. And anybody that thinks they’re gonna come in and get off on the court and just get to where they’re going and have an easy game, he takes that personal and it lights a fire in him,” Wolves wing Nickeil Alexander-Walker said. “You can see his third quarter, he did a great job just pressuring the ball, getting into space, making plays for others and not be as aggressive to score, but also when he was aggressive to score, making those tough shots.”

Edwards scored 17 of his 34 points in that third frame as Minnesota turned an 11-point deficit into a 3-point advantage heading into the final frame.

Minnesota (42-17) didn’t exactly pull away from Memphis in the fourth. The Wolves and the undermanned Grizzlies essentially went back and forth with buckets throughout most of the final frame.

Jackson’s miss on an open three-ball with 1 minute, 20 seconds to play essentially signaled Memphis’ official concession, as the Grizzlies — who’ve now lost 12 of their last 14 games — made no effort to get back on defense and Edwards waltzed down the floor before feeding Jaden McDaniels for a jam to put Minnesota up nine.

Jackson finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds, while Naz Reid added 19 points for the Wolves.

Was it pretty? No. But, at this point in the season, that’s not all that relevant.

“I don’t have nothing (bad) to say. I just want to win,” Edwards said. “I come from winning 20 games my rookie year, so I don’t care how we win. I don’t care if we play s—–y the first three quarters. If we win the game, I’m happy. I have nothing bad to say. Little stuff like we gotta be better on the ball, but on the whole, as long as we win (I’m good).”

Briefly

Wolves forward Kyle Anderson missed the game with a hamstring injury suffered Tuesday against San Antonio. There is no immediate timetable for his return.