Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards takes blame for disappointing defeat vs. Nuggets in Game 3

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 11, 2024

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been the talk of the association this postseason. The Wolves accomplished their first ever series sweep in the first round by dismantling Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns. The Timberwolves continued their winning ways in the altitude. Minnesota snuck by the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 and then completely obliterated them in Game 2.

Game 3 was a prime opportunity for the ever-hungry Wolves. A chance to go up 3-0 over the reigning champions with the support of their home crowd behind them. However, Minnesota let their golden chance slip through their fingers. A disparaging effort left a Target Center crowd in silence on Friday night. The Timberwolves battled early as Karl-Anthony Towns drilled a few early threes, but Minnesota’s offensive attack dwindled and their gameplan unraveled.

The Nuggets’ championship might was on full display with their backs against the wall. With his play this postseason, Anthony Edwards has continued to draw comparisons to Michael Jordan. Despite his greatness in the 2024 playoffs, Ant was less than stellar in Game 3. Postgame, Edwards took the blame for the team’s “flat” performance. Let’s dive into his thoughts and play from Friday night’s disappointing defeat.

After the crushing loss, Minnesota’s budding superstar was asked what went wrong in comparison to the first two games of this second round series. Edwards pointed the blame directly at himself rather than casting stones at others.

“It’s on me. I’ll take the blame for this loss. I came out with no energy at all,” Edwards said. “I came out flat and I can’t afford to do that for my team. I let my team and my coaches down, fans down so I’ll be ready Sunday.”

First of all, Edwards’ maturity stands out in his answer. Rather than assigning blame or making excuses, Ant directly points to his own shortcomings in the loss. However, this letdown performance is a surprising one given the energy Edwards had prior to tipoff on Friday night.

Minnesota’s star guard was dancing during warmups and seemed to be ready for the moment to take the series by the throat. His play in Game 3 did not back that up despite his unwavering confidence. Ant-Man was not his usual aggressive self in the loss.

Edwards shot the ball just 15 times and additionally turned the rock over five times. Perhaps the most glaring concern is the fact that Edwards shot zero free throws despite a fairly soft whistle throughout most of the game. Edwards also posted a game-worst -32 plus-minus.

The Timberwolves’ bigger problem

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) and center Rudy Gobert (27) during the second half against the Denver Nuggets during game one of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Edwards’ honesty postgame does shed some light to part of what went wrong for the Wolves. The reality, though, is that the Timberwolves’ defense and ball contain was not up to its typical level and offensively the team struggled mightily to take advantage of gaps.

Most specifically, Minnesota failed to utilize Rudy Gobert as a roll man. Gobert’s screen-setting and rim pressure are often far overlooked. His offensive impact isn’t always pretty, but it’s very reliable. The Wolves’ center is selfless in his play, but that doesn’t mean he always should be.

The Nuggets’ three-time MVP Nikola Jokic prefers to play up at the level of the screen. When he hedges, Gobert is wide open on his rim dives. Despite this, Minnesota failed to hit him in stride and either turned it over later in the possession trying to force a late pass or just looked him off entirely.

Not only does missing Gobert on open rolls result in missed opportunities, it also makes it tougher to score in other ways. Finding the big man once or twice early will flatten the defense and likely lead to some open catch and shoot threes for Minnesota’s role players.

In addition to missing Gobert as a roller, they just flat out didn’t ever feed him on obvious mismatches. This is not a new occurrence for Gobert. Friday night’s disaster was very reminiscent of the 2021 Utah Jazz team that completely unraveled against the small ball Los Angeles Clippers that postseason. Back then, Utah completely failed to punish smalls by not feeding Gobert the ball when it makes sense.

While the Stifle Tower isn’t the world’s best post-up player, he’s still a giant seven-footer who draws a ton of fouls. For a thinner Nuggets squad, foul trouble would cause major issues in this series. Getting Rudy Gobert the ball early and often will breed results whether it happens to be dunks or fouls drawn.