Nuggets apply even more pressure to Edwards, beat Timberwolves to take 3-2 lead in series

Two men playing basketball
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, right, collects the ball while fending off Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Denver.
David Zalubowski | AP

Anthony Edwards was seeing double everywhere he turned. All by design as the Denver Nuggets doubled the attention on Minnesota's standout guard.

It was yet another wrinkle for the Nuggets, who held Edwards to 18 points — 15 below his average in this series — in their 112-97 win over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night in Game 5.

“We knew we had to do something different with Anthony Edwards. That guy is just a one-man wrecking crew,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We trapped him. We double-teamed him. We flew around behind him.”

They exhausted him, too.

Because in addition to feeling the constant pressure to carry the offensive load, Edwards was applying the pressure on defense in an effort to make things difficult for Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.

“Getting in the best shape of my life,” cracked Edwards, whose team has dropped three in a row in the series. “So it’s fun.”

The Nuggets dared anyone not named Edwards to beat them as they took a 3-2 lead in the second-round series with a chance to close out the Timberwolves on Thursday night in Minneapolis. The strategy worked, in part, because Anthony had fewer clear looks at the basket. The Timberwolves were also missing Mike Conley, who was ruled out before the game with soreness in his right Achilles.

“They’re just playing better than us right now,” Edwards said. “They’re playing harder than us. They’re getting all the loose balls. Everything's going their way. They've got the momentum, man. We’ve got to figure out a way to shift it back our way.”

Timberwolves Nuggets Basketball
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, left, fields a pass next to Denver Nuggets forward Peyton Watson during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Denver.
David Zalubowski | AP

Karl-Anthony Towns had a solid night despite appearing to tweak his left knee in the first half, finishing with 23 points. Rudy Gobert, too, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds. But by keeping Edwards in check on 5-of-15 shooting, the Nuggets limited the damage and built a lead that stretched to as many as 18 points.

With so much attention surrounding him, Edwards resorted to passing and finished with a team-high nine assists. But it was his instant offense the Timberwolves were in desperate need of late in the game. He had four points in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got to do a better job making it easier for him,” Towns said of Edwards. “It’s about executing at a higher level. The guys in the other locker room here are executing at a championship level in these last three games. They’ve shown when you’re executing at that level what the results will be.”

Timberwolves Nuggets Basketball
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, front, and coach Chris Finch sit on the bench during a timeout late in the second half of Game 5 of the team's NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Denver.
David Zalubowski | AP

So dominant on defense in the first two games, winning two in a row in Denver by keeping the Nuggets under 100 points, the Timberwolves have found it tougher to contain the connected Nuggets ever since. Denver has averaged 114.7 points over its last three games.

“Their guys are making shots,” Edwards said.

Especially three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, who had 40 points on 15-of-22 shooting. He also had 13 assists and no turnovers.

“He’s the best player in NBA,” Edwards said. "He was special tonight. I’ve got to give him his flowers. He was that guy tonight.”