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Edwards on exchange with Murray: ‘Keep talking’

MINNEAPOLIS — With the clock winding down in the Minnesota Timberwolves115-107 Game 4 loss to the Denver Nuggets — finishing a disastrous homestand during which the Wolves handed back the two-game Western Conference semifinals lead they had built on the defending champs — Anthony Edwards looked defiant rather than defeated.

As the 22-year-old star crossed directions with Denver’s Jamal Murray near the sideline, Edwards clapped his hands, nodded his head and kept his gaze fixed on the Nuggets point guard while he delivered a message.

“I just told his ass we love that,” said Edwards, who scored a game-high 44 points in Sunday’s outing. “‘Keep talking [like] that. That’s what we like.’ Well, I loved it. He didn’t say nothing back. But I’m pretty sure he heard me. They heard me. You live for that.”

Edwards made plenty of noise with his play before that, topping the 40-point plateau for the second time in the series and the third time this postseason as he shot 16-for-25 from the field (64%), 5-for-8 from 3 (62.5%) and 7-for-8 from the foul line (87.5%) in Game 4.

The rest of his team combined to shoot 40.4% overall, 30% from 3 and 57.9% on free throws.

The Wolves now head back to Denver with the series tied 2-2.

Murray, who scored 13 of his 19 points from the final two seconds of the first half through the first 4½ minutes of the third quarter — including a buzzer-beating 3 from 55 feet out to end the second quarter — did not comment on the exchange with Edwards.

But Murray did speak on the challenge of containing the Wolves shooting guard, who is averaging 33.3 points on 60.4% shooting through the first four games of this second-round series.

“He’s downhill, he’s tough to guard, he’s explosive,” Murray said. “He’s always in attack mode, you know what I’m saying? So, I think we can just do a better job of just giving him some attention.”

While Edwards confronted Murray, the Wolves guard comforted his teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, who shot just 1-for-10 in the first half on his way to a 5 for 18 performance. Towns scored just 13 points while Nuggets big men Nikola Jokic (35 points on 15-for-26 from the field) and Aaron Gordon (27 points on 11-for-12) had huge nights.

“He’s a superstar,” Edwards said of Towns. “He gets paid to put the ball in the rim. I always tell him, ‘Don’t you ever stop shooting the ball because you missed five or six. I don’t give a damn. In order for us to win, we need you to score.’ I’m just happy he was aggressive the entire night. That’s a win for us tonight. Him being aggressive throughout after having an off night, I guess.”

Even with the words of encouragement from Edwards and an improvement in the second half, Towns could not hide his disappointment.

“Things weren’t falling today,” Towns said. “I take responsibility for that. I know I put the work in, so I feel good about the work I put in. It’s shown this playoffs, obviously. It’s unfortunate that on Mother’s Day I have a shooting performance like that. But it’s the way the game goes. It’s not a fun game sometimes.”

Towns’ mother, Jackie Cruz-Towns, died of COVID-19 complications in April 2020.

As the longest-tenured member of the Wolves, drafted by the franchise with the No. 1 pick in 2015, Towns has experienced plenty more on-court disappointment than losing two games straight in the playoffs. In three of his first eight seasons in the league, Minnesota won fewer than 30 games, before breaking through with 56 wins this season to earn the No. 3 seed in the West.

“We just got to stay connected in this locker room,” Towns said. “Even through good, bad, we always are together, and we always lean into the brotherhood that we have built here. … But it’s a test now. And we got to be willing to show the work that we’ve put into our friendships and our relationships in this team, and that work that we’ve put in all year will materialize to us either finding a way to win this series together or finding ourselves on the wrong side of history.”

If Edwards’ attitude at the end of Game 4 was an indicator, there is at least one Wolves player who is unfazed by Denver knotting things up.

“I don’t think they got any momentum,” Edwards said of the Nuggets. “We won two games. They won two games. At this point, it’s whoever wins two [more] games. I don’t know how people look at it, but I look at it like I’m happy. I’m ready.

“It’s competing at the highest level. I’m smiling about it because I’m happy. I’m ready to go play. If we played tomorrow, I’d be ready. It’s going to be fun.”

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