Edwards toughens up, helps Wolves avoid another collapse with 41-point night

PORTLAND – There were differing opinions concerning whether Anthony Edwards was going to play in the Timberwolves' 121-109 victory over Portland on Tuesday.

In the mid-afternoon, the team listed Edwards as questionable because of right knee soreness a night after the Wolves played the Clippers in Los Angeles. Edwards said he was "super close" to sitting out.

"At the last second I was like, I'm gonna try it out," Edwards said. "Because I wasn't gonna go tonight."

Did they ever need him to do so. Edwards willed the Wolves to a victory on the second night of a back-to-back. He had 41 points, was 16-for-27 from the field, 4-for-8 from three-point range and 5-for-5 from the free-throw line. If he didn't play on Tuesday, the Wolves likely don't win.

After doing a pregame workout with David Hines, vice president of medical operations and performance, and putting a little heat on it, Edwards decided to give it a go after all.

"I can't miss a game because of knee soreness," he said. "I got to be ready to go."

But this came with a little prodding. Earlier in the day, point guard Mike Conley basically told him to toughen up.

With a smile running across his face, the 36-year-old veteran point guard said he often gives Edwards little pep talks to tell him he's not really as tired or sore as he thinks he is. Tuesday was one of those days.

"His hotel room is right next to mine and I saw him walking to his room and I said, 'You ain't limping, stop it and lock in, you've just got a little bruise.' "

The Wolves needed Edwards' offense on a night Karl-Anthony Towns (13 points) picked up three fouls in the first quarter and sat the entire second. Several of his teammates also had tough nights, like Jaden McDaniels, who went 0-for-7, and Conley, who was 2-for-7.

"Really proud of him," coach Chris Finch said of Edwards. "I know he was banged up and last night was a super physical game. Tonight ended up being a really physical game too. Kind of got off to a slow start. Then he got hot. Once he gets hot, there's no getting him off the floor."

BOXSCORE: Timberwolves 121, Portland 109

NBA standings

But one of the key moments of the night came when Edwards was off the floor at the start of the fourth quarter. Despite his Herculean efforts on offense, the Wolves fell behind 86-84 early in the fourth while he rested.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker came to the rescue. After starting off the quarter with a turnover and a foul on a Scott Henderson three-point attempt, Alexander-Walker (18 points) went on a heater like he rarely has in a Wolves uniform. He hit four consecutive three-pointers to ignite an 18-4 Wolves run that turned a close game into a route.

"It felt really good just to trust it and just let go," Alexander-Walker said. "All the work that I put in and letting my body do the work, the muscle memory taking over, and just being in the moment, of trying to win the game – turning into that felt great."

The fourth one came from the corner in front of the Wolves' bench, which erupted. Alexander-Walker is a frequent reader and a lot of the books he consumes have to do with self-help, about letting go of self and trusting input over output. Tuesday was a prime example of the mindset he has tried to achieve as a player.

"The only way for me to improve now is to separate that self and just be able to enjoy the moment and be in the moments, good and bad," Alexander-Walker said.

After Alexander-Walker's run, Edwards re-entered and made sure Portland didn't creep back into it. He topped off his night with nine points in the fourth as he shot over or weaved his way through Portland's defense.

In his first few seasons, Edwards struggled on the second night of back to backs, like in his second season, when he shot just 42% in those scenarios. But now, Edwards can show up to play, even when he might not feel like it.

"He's still a kid at heart," Conley said. "He comes in and says, 'Man I'm tired I don't know if I can go,' and I've kind of got to give him a little speech and tell him, 'You're not tired' and then he'll be like, 'Yeah you're right, you're right.'

"And then he just goes out and shows he can beat anyone off the dribble."