Nuggets selling out to stop Anthony Edwards. And Timberwolves guard isn’t getting much help.

  • The Wolves and the Denver Nuggets will face off in Game 6 of the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Target Center in Minneapolis. Watch on ESPN or tune in to 100.3 FM.

DENVER — Anthony Edwards has seen the bulk of opponents’ defensive attention all season. Traps, double-teams, heavy gap help. You name it, he has seen it.

But none of it compares to what the Denver Nuggets threw at him Tuesday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals.

“This was crazy. Today was crazy, for sure,” Edwards said after the game. “Yeah, today was wild.”

The Nuggets sent aggressive double teams at Edwards seemingly every trip down the floor, almost instantly after he would catch the ball.

“They wasn’t leaving me until I got off the ball,” Edwards said.

That’s normal for a dominant post player. It’s highly unusual treatment for a wing player holding the ball on the perimeter.

The Nuggets were effectively willing to cover the Timberwolves’ other four players with three defenders for a few seconds while they scrambled around the court. It was an extreme response to Game 4, when Edwards scored 44 points with relative ease to carry the Timberwolves’ offense, marking the second time he scored 40-plus points in the series.

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“We knew we had to do something different with Anthony Edwards. This guy is just a one-man wrecking crew, and I thought KCP, CB, Aaron did a great job,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But we trapped him, we double-teamed him, flew around behind it. And that takes a lot of effort, and our guys committed to it.”

And that defense did minimize Edwards’ offensive dominance that the Timberwolves relied so heavily on through the first four games of the series. He finished with just 18 points on 5-for-15 shooting. But he did also had nine assists and, to his credit, committed to the pass.

“I thought for the most part Anthony did a good job of moving the ball and staying patient moving the ball,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said.

“Just trying to hit the open man,” Edwards said. “Just trying to find the next play or the swing-swing and play out of that.”

The problem was, when he did so, his teammates couldn’t capitalize. The players on the receiving ends of the passes weren’t decisive. So ensuing passes were too slow or smart decisions with the ball simply weren’t made.

“Maybe we were a little late in moving it out of that. When we did get good looks — and we had some naked ones — they didn’t go in,” Finch said. “Like with Jaden and Nickeil in particular, we need those guys to connect (on their shots).”

The Nuggets are counting on those guys not knocking down shots. And, for the most part, they’ve obliged. The Nuggets did not pay for committing an inordinate amount of defensive resources to stopping Edwards. Quite the contrary. They won because of it.

So it’s a good bet they will deploy a similar tactic in Game 6 on Thursday in Minneapolis. And the Timberwolves need to have better answers for it. Perhaps that will include Edwards, who didn’t seem to have his full tank of juice on Tuesday, playing with more force and making something happen off the bounce. He split a few double teams Tuesday and got to the free throw line because of it. Anytime he can manage that, Minnesota is better off for it.

But attacking multiple defenders is generally not good offensive process. The reality is if the Nuggets are going to dare other players to beat them, those guys have to step up and do the job.

“I think just keep the ball moving, keep the ball flowing. Just try to run our actions. And that alleviates some of the pressure on Ant, and that makes the defense move,” center Rudy Gobert said. “I think our guys are able to make the right play. Nickeil, Jaden, I mean, all these guys are able to make the right play. We just got to find ways to get into the flow of the offense and not get too stagnant.”

Because stagnancy makes it quite easy for Denver to double when Edwards has the ball and recover as soon as he gets off of it. And, if the Timberwolves can’t create advantages off of the double teams, the offense is doomed.

“(The Nuggets are) doing a great job. Obviously they got a great coaching staff over there with Malone. We got to just do a better job of making it easier for (Edwards),” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “We got one of the best screeners in the game with Rudy. There’s a lot of different ways we can attack and make it easier and alleviate the pressure.”

Edwards’ teammates have to do something to aid his efforts. On Tuesday, Edwards was asked to initiate 90 percent of the team’s offense. He also was tasked with defending Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, which he succeeded in doing, all while playing 44 minutes — just two days after logging 45 minutes in Game 4.

It’s a lot, not that the 22-year-old can’t handle it.

“It’s fun, man,” Edwards said. “I’m getting in the best shape of my life.”

But a little help might be nice, and beneficial for the Timberwolves’ team success.

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