Edwards, Towns win big for Timberwolves in Game 1 win over Memphis

MEMPHIS — As the Timberwolves’ 130-117 playoff victory over Memphis was about to end, the players gathered for the middle ball on center court.

They had to stand there for a while, as officials waited for the green light from ESPN that it was OK to start. While they were standing there, Anthony Edwards went to Karl-Anthony Towns, and they had a quiet time in the middle of a rocking FedEx forum.

Towns said he called Edwards by his own personal nickname, a nickname not printable in a newspaper, and gave some simple advice.

“I just told him to be him,” Towns said. “Be that guy.”

Edwards said his relationship with Towns grew a lot over the past season and they could be honest with each other. They shared that last moment before taking to the biggest stage of the season.

“We can just talk to each other in the heat of the moment, in the heat of the moment,” Edwards said. “In the beginning, we always say, ‘I want this’ or ‘Make sure we do this’. We just traded that between us and that was it.”

They bumped their fists and got to work.

Towns played like the All-Star moniker he earned after Tuesday’s off-game night against the Clippers with 29 points, 13 rebounds. Edwards played like an All-Star announcing his full-throated arrival on the scene with 36 points and six assists.

Wolves don’t have a lot of playoff history, but Edwards now holds the record for most points scored by a Wolves player in their first career playoff game. Wolves also won just their second playoff game since 2004 and will play Game 2 on Tuesday in Memphis.

Edwards and Towns were the reasons why, as they helped catch a 2-for-11 night from D’Angelo Russell. Malik Beasley threw 23 off the bench as Wolves led most of the night and answered every run from Memphis despite 32 runs from Ja Morant.

For Towns, Saturday’s performance was an opportunity to rectify what happened Tuesday, when he was almost a non-factor against the Clippers. No matter what kind of coverage Memphis threw at him, he handled it. He stayed clear of fouls and even put famous Memphis rim protector Jaren Jackson Jr. on a poster in the third quarter.

BOXSCORE: Wolves 130, Memphis 117

“I really feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Towns said. “It shouldn’t be something we should be celebrating, like, ‘Oh, you’re lucky to be playing a really good game on the national stage. You should be really proud and excited. “I’m supposed to do this. … I don’t want to act like it’s something that should be abnormal. It’s what I should be doing every night, especially now.

Coach Chris Finch said that of all the things he was concerned about in the series, Towns’ performance was not one of them.

“He’s a great player. That’s what allowed him to deliver the performance. I wasn’t worried at all,” Finch said. “…He’s a star of the franchise. There hadn’t been a lot of nights like Tuesday, so it wasn’t like it was some kind of pattern or anything.

There was a tendency, albeit a small one, for Towns to fall short of his high playoff standards. Towns shook off his struggles in a pressure cooker environment dating back to his first playoff series in 2018.

Edwards looked like he felt no pressure.

He said he particularly enjoyed playing Memphis because of the silly talk from fans, even kids.

“The kids were the worst,” Edwards said. “Even at 8 years old, 10 years old, ‘Anthony go sit down!…’ It’s just fun. Basketball amuses me. I love it.”

Looks like he did. Edwards shot 12 for 23 and came with a bucket, from all over the floor, almost every time Wolves needed it.

“I love my shots,” Edwards said. “Whatever shot I take, whether it’s a back ball or a back mid-range. Or a floater or a lay-up. Whatever my shot, I like it. Sometimes the coach may not like it, but I like my shot.”

Edwards said the freedom Finch allows him and the team helps create performances like the one he had on Saturday.

“I love Finchy,” Edwards said. “He lets you play, of course, until a game gets a little tight and you can get a shot he doesn’t like, he might yell at you a little bit, but other than that, everything is love.”

There were no complaints on Saturday.

“He’s a special talent,” Towns said. “I think we all know how special he is. He showed it night after night. When he plays basketball at this level, he’s almost unstoppable. He’s unstoppable.”