- NBA writer for ESPN.com since 2008
- Former contributor and editor at NPR
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Anthony Edwards dazzled in his postseason debut, and Karl-Anthony Towns turned in an impressive bounce-back game as the Minnesota Timberwolves upset the Memphis Grizzlies 130-117 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Saturday.
“We did a fabulous job of playing our game, Timberwolves basketball,” Towns said. “This was a team win. This happened because all of us came today with one goal in mind, and that was winning. I thought we played a lot of winning basketball. We did a lot of little things that are needed to win. We should be very proud of our performance.”
Edwards, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, scored 36 points to become the third-youngest player with more than 35 points in a playoff game, behind only Derrick Rose and Tyler Herro, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Edwards did his damage from all over the court, draining four shots from beyond the arc, three baskets at the rim and converted 8 of 8 free throw attempts in one of the more auspicious coming-out parties in recent NBA history.
“I told [teammate Taurean Prince] I treat every game the same,” Edwards said. “I didn’t feel any different — like a regular season game to me.”
Towns, who struggled from the field and with foul trouble in Minnesota’s play-in victory Tuesday night over the visiting LA Clippers, reversed his fortunes with an efficient 29-point, 13-rebound performance. He dominated Memphis center Steven Adams, scoring on 9 of his 11 attempts against the Grizzlies’ stalwart big man. It was a marked contrast to his choppy effort in Minneapolis.
“I’m happy with the performance I had tonight,” Towns said. “I just really feel like that’s what I’m supposed to do. It shouldn’t be something we should be celebrating, like ‘Oh, you got a chance to play a really good game on a national stage. You should be really proud and excited.’ I’m supposed to do that.”
In his postgame comments, Towns emphasized Edwards’ uncanny shot-making, an ability to hit difficult attempts against tight defense. On Saturday, eight of his 12 made field goals were contested by Memphis defenders.
“He’s not going to get an easy shot,” Towns said. “For him to be able to take multiple dribbles in the playoffs and still get to his spot and make a shot — it’s something that’s special. Because once you’re in the playoffs, usually the one-on-one dribble drives get taken away, and he’s still finding ways to get there. He’s a special talent.”
Edwards’ shot probability — which measures the likelihood an attempt will be successful — was the lowest among the eight players in the game who attempted more than 10 field goals, according to Second Spectrum. Yet, he finished with a healthy effective field goal percentage of 56 percent.
Well-aware of his reputation for taking challenging, sometimes lower-percentage attempts, Edwards quipped that he was quite satisfied with his diet of shots.
“I love my shots,” Edwards said. “Whatever shot I take, whether it’s a stepback trey-ball or a stepback mid-range, or a floater or a layup — whatever my shot is, I like it. Sometimes [Timberwolves coach Chris Finch] may not like it, but I love my shot. I’m just trusting myself.”
The Timberwolves also trust Edwards, as the long-suffering Minnesota franchise goes up 1-0 in their quest to win a playoff series for the first time since 2004.
“When he’s playing basketball at this kind of level, he’s almost unstoppable,” Towns said, before correcting himself. “He is unstoppable, actually.”
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