No easy way out: Timberwolves facing elimination from NBA playoffs

Anthony Edwards sounds like he has been sleeping just fine.

Edwards is facing the first elimination game of his career Friday in Game 6 between the Timberwolves and Grizzlies. That’s no bother.

“I’m feeling better than ever,” Edwards said with his typical wide smile after Thursday’s practice.

Edwards also wasn’t tossing and turning over his gamble gone wrong at the end of Game 5, when the guard went for a steal of a pass to Ja Morant just before Morant drove to the hoop for the game-winning shot in Memphis’ 111 -109 victory.

Instead, Edwards was thinking more about the shots he took in the fourth quarter, and he had some conflicting thoughts about them: How the shots felt good coming out of his hand, how a lot of them went in and out, but also how a lot of them came in isolation offense, perhaps at a cost to his teammates.

That last point coach Chris Finch emphasized to not just Edwards, but to the rest of the Timberwolves, who play host to Memphis on Friday night at Target Center trailing the best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series 3-2.

“I agree with Finchy,” Edwards said. “A lot of those were bad shots when I could’ve driven and created or got to the foul line.”

The Wolves are down to their last strike with no more room for error. It’s a series they feel should be over by now — in their favor — and they’re more than OK vocalizing that.

“We honestly think it should be 4-1 right now,” guard Malik Beasley said. “We should be resting just like Golden State. We made some mistakes. We’re a young team. We got to learn from it and bounce back.”

Bounce back again, that is. The Wolves didn’t learn from their Game 3 mistakes — when they blew a 26-point lead in a 104-95 loss — down the stretch of their Game 5 loss, when they led by 13 with less than 10 minutes left.

Of particular focus was their late-game execution, which the Wolves want to look more like their early-game execution. There has been too much isolation basketball between Edwards, guard D’Angelo Russell and center Karl-Anthony Towns.

“We talked about that ad nauseam,” Finch said. “Everybody wants to be the hero, and that’s not how you’re going to win these games.”

Finch added this has been a “battle we’ve been fighting all year.” Have they finally learned how to correct it?

“We have a lot of guys who want to close games. Those situations are basically like anything else, a matter of trust, a currency of trust. Right now I think we got to go to a mentality where the go-to guy needs to be the open man.”

Regardless of who it is and regardless of the time on the clock. If it’s Beasley or forward Jaden McDaniels shooting an open shot, so be it.

“Whoever has the ball in their hand has to create those situations by attacking with the mind-set of finding [the open man] rather than attacking with the mind-set of shooting,” Finch said.

Too often, Edwards said, that has been his mind-set.

“Sometimes it is a problem, because my teammates have no rhythm,” Edwards said. “And I pass them the ball with two seconds left [on the shot clock] and I don’t have a shot and it’s always a bad shot then.

“Sometimes it’s a problem, sometimes it’s not. But when it’s in the fourth quarter and we need it, I got to attack more and get off it early.”

Edwards also had a solution for the Wolves’ other large issue in the series: rebounding.

“I will go rebound the ball,” said Edwards, who had one rebound in Game 5. “You will see a lot of that [Friday]. I will have a lot of rebounds at the end of the game, I promise you that. Win, lose or draw, I will have a lot of rebounds.”

For the Wolves to win, it will have to be more than Edwards. The Wolves know how to beat the Grizzlies. They can’t help themselves sometimes. If they lose Friday, they can help themselves to the nearest swim-up hotel bar.

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