Anthony Edwards skies and stars as Minnesota downs Utah

The Timberwolves were trailing Utah by one midway through the third quarter Monday in Utah when Anthony Edwards took flight.

Cutting down the lane in transition with only John Collins standing between the guard and the basket, Edwards elevated in a way that only he knows how. The 22-year-old took off from seemingly 10 feet away and soared up and through Collins, throwing down on the forward for and-1 dunk that put Minnesota in front, silencing the Utah crowd and setting social media ablaze.

“HAAA. Oh my god. That’s my best dunk of my career, I’m not gonna lie,” Edwards said in his postgame, on-court television interview. “I didn’t even react because I dislocated my finger. I wish I could’ve reacted to it.”

Collins left the game and didn’t return with an eye contusion.

Injured Wolves rookie Jaylen Clark aptly tweeted after the game: “Just witnessed a homicide.”

Edwards dislocated the finger on the off hand that mashed into Collins’ face, but got it put back into place and taped up during Minnesota’s ensuing timeout.

And he never looked back from there. As he’s been wont to do of late, Edwards took over the contest, controlling the game with relative ease.

He scored 25 points of his 32 points over the final two quarters to power Minnesota to a 114-104 victory over the Jazz.

“We’ve seen several of those rim attacks at the end of transition like that,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told reporters. “I thought that was what flipped the game around for us from an emotional point of view. We needed a really big play.”

Edwards also tallied eight assists and seven boards. Utah simply didn’t have an answer for the guard. Edwards got to his spots in the mid range and buried jumpers.

When Utah resorted to double teams, Edwards made the right plays. In the fourth quarter, he went 5 for 6 from the field for 13 points to go with three rebounds and two assists.

For the second half, Edwards had those 25 points, six boards, six assists and zero turnovers. It was one of the better halves of basketball you’ll see played.

“That’s just who I am,” Edwards said. “In the big moments, I love to have the ball in my hands, I love to take the shot.”

That was exactly the type of performance Minnesota needed in a second half where it was without all three of its top big men. Karl-Anthony Towns remains out with the torn meniscus. Rudy Gobert missed his second-straight game with a rib sprain. After scoring 17 first-half points, Naz Reid didn’t play in the second half of Monday’s game against the Jazz (29-39) due to a head injury.

“He knows when guys are out and get down and we’re short-handed that he’s got to step up,” Finch said. “Spectacular play.”

Edwards has noted in the past how much he enjoys playing in small-ball lineups. It got no smaller than what Minnesota trotted out over the final 24 minutes in Utah.

Kyle Anderson was often the center playing alongside four guards and wings. There were times when Edwards was the one setting the screen at the top of the floor in pick-and-roll actions.

The floor was consistently spaced to the point where Edwards was a conductor with every option available to him on the floor. And he was, indeed a maestro. When he wasn’t getting his own offense, he was finding teammates. As a team, Minnesota drained 16 3-pointers.

Jordan McLaughlin (3 for 3 from deep), Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Luka Garza and Monte Morris all hit multiple triples off the bench.

The win was massive for Minnesota for a multitude of reasons.

The Wolves need all the divisional victories they can get as a potential tiebreaker for seeding purposes over both Oklahoma City and Denver as the three teams jostle for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Wolves (47-21) are currently tied with Denver in the standings, and just a half-game back of the Thunder.

Also, the currently short-handed Wolves have a date at home Tuesday with Denver. And Monday’s win eases a little of the urgency heading into that bout.

“As a group, collectively, we came together (on the floor) right before the third quarter started and (Anderson) was like, ‘Hey, we need this game. We’ve got Denver tomorrow, we missing key players, so we need this game,’” Edwards said. “So, we kind of took it personal, and I’m glad my teammates stepped up tonight.”

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