Although only in his third year, Anthony Edwards is one of the most confident players in the league. That quality usually shines through in off-court interviews and on offense, but on Monday night his belief in his defense helped save the game for the Minnesota Timberwolves in their 124-121 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Timberwolves sailed smoothly for most of the night. They jumped into a double-digit lead early in the first quarter and extended their lead to 26 points in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, however, Kyrie Irving took over and poured 26 points into the frame alone. With 14.9 seconds left, the Mavs had the ball and were tied three back.
At this point, the wolves had a decision to make. Would they play it out or fake to send the Mavs to the line and prevent a potential game-winning shot? They chose the former and developed stunning defensive possession to secure victory.
The work began before the ball was even inbound when Jaden McDaniel’s Luka Doncic moved off his point and forced a hard pass – one he was able to parry into the backcourt. Although Doncic regained the ball, it cost the Mavericks valuable time and foreshadowed how the remainder of possession would go. Three times in a row, the Mavericks unsuccessfully tried to make room for a 3-pointer, but were choked out each time. First Edwards on Irving, then McDaniels on Doncic, then a combination of the two on Irving. The Mavericks never got a shot, and Irving eventually turned it over.
As it turned out, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch had asked the team if they wanted to foul; Edwards wouldn’t have it.
“Man, they got hot by the end of the game,” Edwards called. “We had to try to calm her down. Me and Jaden, the coach, asked if we wanted to foul. I said ‘man let’s stop’. That’s what me and Jaden are out here for; we out here to stop . So put us on the top two players and see what we do.
This has been a frustrating season for Wolves, at least compared to expectations. But after Monday’s win, they’re now 15-8 since January 1, thanks largely to a defense that ranks 10th in the league in that span at 113.4 points per 100 possessions. They are now 31-29 for the season, which puts them in eighth place in the crowded Western Conference – immediately a game behind fourth but just two games ahead of 12th place.
If they want to keep pushing for a top-six spot, they’ll need a more defensive effort, as Edwards and McDaniels showed on Monday’s last possession when their persistence was too much for the Mavericks’ new star duo.