Anthony Edwards solved Minnesota’s third quarter issues essentially all by himself this month. And in doing so, the third-year guard put the Timberwolves back on a winning path.
Minnesota went from one of the league’s worst third quarter teams all season to a great one in January — a month where the Wolves are now 11-4 after topping the Sacramento Kings 117-110 at Target Center.
Edwards has been the elixir for the post halftime blues. He entered Saturday’s contest averaging 8.5 points and 2.1 assists in the frame, while shooting 53 percent from deep.
And on Saturday, with Minnesota trailing Sacramento by two at the break, Edwards again busted out of the second half gates. The 21-year-old tallied 16 points and six rebounds in a third quarter Minnesota won by 11 to build a big enough margin to stave off a late Kings comeback.
Edwards scored 26 of his 34 points in the second half, capped by a dagger triple with 14 seconds to play to extend Minnesota’s shriveling lead back to seven and ice the contest.
The guard added 10 rebounds and six assists. He has scored 30-plus points in four of his last five games.
He carried the second half load after D’Angelo Russell went 8 for 8 — including 7 for 7 from deep — in the first half. Minnesota went 17 for 37 from deep, pulverizing Sacramento with its outside shooting while the Kings (27-21) missed a number of good looks from deep, shooting a paltry 9 for 33 from distance.
“We’ll get a lot of good looks if we share the ball like we have been doing, and we were able to do that,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said.
Russell and Edwards seem to be making a habit of taking turns igniting the offense of late.
“I don’t know if it’s like intentional, but that’s kind of how they’re doing it, I guess,” Finch said. “Obviously, (Russell) exits and Ant is out there by himself and kind of turns it up a notch.”
De’Aaron Fox finished with 29 points for the Kings, including 21 in the fourth quarter on 8 for 13 shooting after struggling through the first three frames. Fox and Edwards are direct competitors for the last couple of all-star spots in the West.
Saturday provided quite a statement that Edwards is deserving of a spot. He rose to another big moment.
“That’s kind of what fuels him,” Finch said. “He loves a big challenge; he’s really competitive. He’s a heckuva a young player and he’s had, to me, a no brainer all-star season right now. I know he wanted to prove that to everybody out there.”
Minnesota (27-25) has now won three straight, all against teams currently in the top four in the Western Conference.