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Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards believes all things are possible

Wolves star said he felt like “Black Jesus" on Tuesday night in Portland

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers
Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Anthony Edwards dunks then ball during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Moda Center in Portland.
Soobum Im / USA Today Sports
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Anthony Edwards said he felt like “Black Jesus.”

The Timberwolves’ second-year star could do no wrong Tuesday in Portland. He was Minnesota’s savior in the win, lifting a team that did a lot of things to lose into a victory on the strength of his performance. Forty points, nine rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Edwards brought the production, the energy and the emotion.

He cited a point in the game when he looked at the Portland defender in front of him and saw “fear in his eyes.”

“That was all she wrote,” Edwards said.

It was then when he knew he would take the game over. Not thought, but knew.

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He scored 14 points in the final quarter alone, getting to the rim for key finishes and burying a couple difficult triples. It was another “moment” for Edwards — perhaps the one that tops the growing list of them in his young career. Those moments always seem to come at the most opportune times. There was the 40-point performance he delivered in a road win last season over Phoenix, who went on to reach the NBA Finals. And the 33-point, 14-rebound, six-assist showing in a massive mid-November victory over Miami when Karl-Anthony Towns battled foul trouble.

And then there was Tuesday, when the Timberwolves (24-23), desperate to finally get back over .500, needed heroics from Edwards to take down a hot Portland team in a difficult road environment.

“He has that mentality,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “He believes that he can win any battle, any game, any matchup. We’ve seen a few of these types of performances this season. Not only did he have the 40, but when we needed it most, he was making big shots.”

Because he wants that moment. He wants those big shots. He wants to size up a defender and drill a jumper in someone’s face just as badly as he wants to lock an opponent down. During all the postgame gushing from others about his offense, Edwards made sure to note that he held his friend and Portland star guard C.J. McCollum in check, too. The Trail Blazers guard was just 5 for 15 shooting from the field.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers
Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Anthony Edwards reacts after a three point basket during the second half Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center in Portland.
Soobum Im / USA Today Sports

“First team all-defense tonight, for sure,” Edwards said. “He’s a really good player, but I feel like I’m a really good defender, so there ya go.”

When D’Angelo Russell was discussing Edwards’ efforts, he said he wanted Edwards to go for 50, or even 60 points. He said if the game went to overtime, Edwards may have reached those plateaus.

“For sure,” Edwards responded.

Edwards truly believed it. Just as he believes he can be a first-team all-NBA defender. He will never cap his potential nor lower his expectations. Edwards wants to be an all-star this season while lifting the Timberwolves to the playoffs. And next year, the bar will be raised even higher.

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“I’m going for MVP next year, for sure,” Edwards said.

That might sound ludicrous to you. After all, Edwards will be 21 years old next season and isn’t yet in the conversations of the game’s elite. But every seemingly wild statement he makes is rooted in his personal truth. There is nothing he believes he cannot do.

“That’s the great part about him, is he is beloved by his teammates, and it’s genuine. It’s not a cockiness that he’s just throwing out there to cover up some insecurity,” Finch said on The Jim Rome Show on Wednesday. “He really believes that he can do all the things he says.”

And when he fails, Finch noted, Edwards owns it and recognizes his room for growth.

“But it doesn’t break his stride, it doesn’t break his confidence in himself. He knows that he can be great,” Finch said. “He’s always the same every day. He’s got a great smile on his face. He comes to work with the same manner, in the same mood. You can coach him hard. He likes it, he responds well to it. These are things that bely a maturity that most kids, players at 20 years old, don’t have when they’re trying to find their way in the NBA.

“He knows who he is as a person, and as he starts to figure out who he is as a player, that’s going to even propel him further. He knows what he can do, but he’s still trying to learn and figure all that out.”

Perhaps that knowledge and comfort with who he is spurs his self belief. That belief is starting to permeate to his teammates, and has played a key role in helping a long downtrodden team turn the corner into a competent playoff contender.

While the Timberwolves don’t always get the elite Anthony Edwards every night, there does seem to be a growing sense that as long as they have Edwards, they have a chance every night. With Tuesday’s performance, he proved his ability to carry his team to victory under difficult circumstances.

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Minnesota’s next three games are Thursday at Golden State, Friday at Phoenix and at home Sunday against Utah. That’s a murder’s row of Western Conference title contenders. Yet every time the Timberwolves take the floor, you can bet Edwards will consider himself to be the best player on the court, and that Minnesota will win.

There is power in that perspective. When you believe all things are possible, eventually, they are.

“He has the ‘it factor’ to him, where he’s not afraid of the moment,” Finch told KFXN 100.3 on Wednesday. “Hopefully it happens for us this year, but it’s going to be fun to watch him in the playoffs.”

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