Anthony Edwards is meeting the moment — it just might not be enough against the champs

MINNEAPOLIS – It’s a rite of passage, an inescapable reality for all the greats who come through the association.

Anthony Edwards I realized the moment was necessary and met it. He didn’t hold back, but stared the defending champions in the face and dealt them a powerful blow that would have put lesser teams behind.

Edwards is the NBA’s newest darling, and rightfully so, as he has earned every bit of praise that has been and will be heaped his way. Edwards had a solid one-man outing in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The 22-year-old knew he could win the series on Sunday night, even if he didn’t say it out loud.

Edwards emerged, but on the other hand he met a proud hero who seemed to have found his charm and rhythm in the most adverse circumstances. One day, Edwards will be where he is Denver Nuggets Today, he stares at a charismatic New Jack with nothing to lose – and he’ll remember the time he scored 44 points in the most efficient way possible. He will remember that he did not meet everyone on his side at that moment.

Edwards met his opponent in the Nuggets who stands in his way at the moment. method Detroit Pistons He stood in Michael Jordan’s way and prevented his coronation. method Boston Celtics I stood up at first LeBron James‘ road.

The Nuggets tied the Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece by referee A.J Win 115-107 Sunday before another unruly crowd at Target Center. The series returns to Denver on Tuesday, where… Timberwolves He made a final statement a week ago with two wins.

But oh, what a difference a week makes.

Edwards did nothing to dampen his star, as he dropped 40 points for the second time in the series and averaged 33.2 over four games, adding 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals per game. He attacked the Nuggets at every turn, getting to the basket, absorbing contact in an increasingly physical series, but he stood tall, hit threes and learned more and more about the impact he could have in high-stakes basketball.

Edwards was not only good, he was amazing. He was tense in his movements, walking carefully down the aisle like the late Gregory Hines. If the Nuggets discover anyone else in this series, they have yet to conjure up an answer for this guy.

“He came out with a very aggressive mentality and maintained it throughout the game, regardless of what his teammates didn’t do,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “But there were enough other plays that could have complemented him that we didn’t make. And, you know, those are the things we have to try to do and those are the things we’ve been doing throughout the playoffs.”

Fatiguing him may be the Nuggets’ best chance of stopping him. Edwards, who spent time as a cornerback on the Nuggets’ all-time leading scorer — even Nikola Jokic In the 4th quarter – has been spent early in the last 12 games.

He indicated a timeout to collect himself, after playing 37 of the first 39 minutes. While he was sitting on the bench, the Nuggets reserve Christian Brown He hit a three to put his team up by 13. At 2 minutes and 40 seconds Edwards was on the bench, and the Timberwolves were outscored by 13 points (Edwards was plus-5 on the night).

“I should know that. I’m young,” Edwards said with a smile. “So I think I can look tired and still be effective out there. But I was definitely a little tired, and a little gassy. But I’ll be fine.”

It doesn’t have to be the next Michael, or copy printOr anyone else in that lineage. In fact, he’s performing as if he’s ahead of the curve — taking the loss of Game 3 on the chin, snatching accountability and vowing to do better in Game 4.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - MAY 12: Anthony Edwards #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference second round playoffs at Target Center on May 12, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading or using this image, user agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - MAY 12: Anthony Edwards #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts during the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of the Western Conference second round playoffs at Target Center on May 12, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading or using this image, user agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Anthony Edwards scored 44 points Sunday night, but it wasn’t enough. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

What he learned is the margin of error in playing against a championship team in its prime, is that there is no margin for error. You can’t fall asleep on an incoming pass, or a pocket pass – otherwise the Nuggets will pounce because their concentration is at peak levels.

An Edwards turnover late in the first half led to a Michael Porter Jr Dunk runs out with 1.6 seconds left, and then Jamal Murray He intercepted an inbounds pass on the other side of the half court before hitting a 50-footer at the buzzer — turning the Nuggets’ seven-point lead with 20 seconds left into a 15-point lead heading into halftime.

“This is a great team. They’re not going to beat themselves,” Finch said. “It’s inexcusable for us to have, you know, a bracket like that where they have eight points in seven seconds or something like that, whatever it takes to close out the quarter.”

The Timberwolves are learning that there are levels to this, and as Edwards continues his ascension, the onus will be on the front office to surround him with the teammates he’ll meet now — because he looked at a team that knows itself better than any team remaining in the playoffs and saw calm rather than panic.

Jokic, who Edwards calls “the best player in the world” without hesitation, once again made his mark on the series as the Nuggets picked up some smelling salts during their trip to Minnesota A few days ago.

Jokic punished Rudy Gobertfor which he received an award Fourth Defensive Player of the Year Award Right before tip-off, and whoever the Timberwolves put in front of him all night. He scored 35 goals with 7 assists and 7 rebounds, and many of those assists found capable hands Aaron Gordonwho hit his first 11 shots en route to a 27-point, 6-assist, 7-rebound performance.

Gordon has sacrificed and immersed himself in winning, in making himself who he is The perfect running companion Lejokic – the unselfish player in today’s game. When Gordon was asked about selflessness, Jokic walked into the tight interview room and Gordon smiled.

“It was a great transition, I saw a big guy walk into the room,” Gordon said. “This is where I learned to be unselfish, I learned that from him. The best basketball player in the world, the three-time MVP, the most humble and selfless man. If the three-time MVP could do that I can do that too.

Gordon could do more, and in other situations he would be tasked with doing more, but he seems happy in his role. The same goes for Murray, who is increasingly finding his way, and the Nuggets have received timely contributions from Justin Holiday And Brown, who gathered 22 players on the bench.

Edwards doesn’t yet have that role-playing guy like Gordon, or that player hasn’t yet developed into someone who will bring out all the things he needs to. After all, Edwards is still developing himself.

Carl Anthony Cities He had the worst game at the worst time, missing his first seven shots en route to a 5-for-18 night, and scored 13 points as he came into the night averaging 20.3 in the series. There was extra weight, not only the risks, but since it was Mother’s Day. Towns lost his mother, Jacqueline, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Things didn’t go down today. I take responsibility for that,” Towns said. “I did the work, so I feel good about the job I did. It’s a shame on Mother’s Day, I have a photo performance like this. It’s the way the game goes. It’s not a fun game sometimes.”

Who knows if Towns, for all his gifts and talents as a big-time shooter, is the right complement to Edwards. Edwards, as usual, doesn’t save him.

“I mean, he’s a star. You get paid to put the ball at the rim,” Edwards said. “I told him, ‘Never stop shooting the ball, I don’t care.’ In order to win, we need you to score. I’m glad he was aggressive all night. “This is a win for us tonight.”

It is noble of Edwards to offer grace at that moment, but no such sentiment was offered in the final seconds, which saw Murray clap a little in relief. Edwards was not deterred after losing two home games over the weekend.

“I just told him we like it, keep talking about it,” Edwards said. “Well, I like that. He didn’t say anything back to me, but I’m sure he heard me, they heard me.

They saw him, and they just knew they couldn’t stop him – and maybe in this series, they won’t have to.

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