With 10 games to go, Edwards’ injury could alter Wolves’ playoff picture
A day after Anthony Edwards was howling in pain as he hobbled off the floor Friday in Chicago, he wasn't in the lineup for the team's game against Toronto because of his right ankle injury.
That didn't come as a shock, considering how much discomfort Edwards faced and given the fact he was in a walking boot after the game.
It also wasn't a surprise even as the Wolves listed Edwards as questionable in their afternoon injury report, which they did even though Edwards is set to undergo further testing on his ankle Sunday when the team is in New York.
Coach Chris Finch said on the team's pregame radio show Saturday in Toronto that Edwards was still in the walking boot and the injury was "not as bad as initially feared." He added the team is still "sifting through" how long Edwards might be sidelined.
Even if the injury is mild, there are only 10 games on their schedule after Saturday's game against the Raptors. The biggest question facing the Wolves now is can they survive in a packed Western Conference playoff race without Edwards — for however long he may be out. That's not to mention their chances of winning a playoff series, should they get there. The Wolves have to worry first about getting there, a task that is now much harder.
"There's not much calculation to make," center Rudy Gobert said after Friday's game. "Just got to go out there, whoever is out there, and win games. And hopefully Ant comes back as soon as he can. Hopefully KAT [Karl-Anthony Towns] comes back as soon as he can. And we go out there with whoever is available and try to win games. Yeah, we have some big opportunities ahead of us."
The Wolves have another player who is due back from injury soon, but it's still undetermined just when Towns will return from his right calf injury. His return seems to be closer by the day; Towns tweeted out a picture of a caged lion with the message, "Me waiting to get cleared to play ... let the kid do what he loves" on Saturday afternoon.
Towns will give the Wolves an All-Star scoring option on the floor, a player who can be the focal point of an opposing defense's scheme. That's something they will be missing as long as Edwards and Towns are both off the floor, and will make it harder for their supporting cast to fill in the gaps.
Consider this: When Edwards is on the floor, the Wolves have an offensive rating of 113.7, which would rank 16th in the league. When he's off the floor, their offensive rating is 106.5. Not only is Edwards the team's leading scorer, but the attention defenses must pay him can open things up for his teammates simply by him just being on the floor. The Wolves' late-game execution even with Edwards was inconsistent, and sometimes that veered too much into Edwards playing iso-ball. The Wolves had to figure out how that aspect of their game is going to look with Edwards out on Friday.
The Wolves were able to force two overtimes against the Bulls, and were in position to win in the first overtime if not for a late Taurean Prince turnover, thanks in part to Mike Conley and Jaden McDaniels hitting some clutch shots.
Conley said he is taking it upon himself to keep the team together and keep its spirits up after a tough day Friday and recent tough losses to the Bulls and Celtics.
"I bring a lot of that to this team. I was even talking to [Prince] after the game like, 'Man I've been on teams that we've been in situations where we lose four, five straight tough games by one or two points' and all it takes is for you to knock the door down," Conley said. "You see [the ball] go in, make free throws at the end, you see us get stops, and then you start believing and trusting in the situation and not looking up at the scoreboard in the third quarter thinking like 'oh shoot, here it goes, it's happening again.' "
Conley hit a career-high eight threes in Edwards' absence and was already starting to look for his shot more before Edwards went down. That will continue. Meanwhile McDaniels, who has struggled in clutch time this season, came up with multiple key buckets Friday. McDaniels is shooting 34.5% (10-for-29) in clutch minutes, which the NBA defines as a game with five minutes or fewer remaining and the score within five. He was 3-for-4 in clutch time against the Bulls. Now would be the time for him, or any other Wolves player, to heat up.
Otherwise the Wolves are in danger of missing the playoffs in a season they don't have their first-round draft pick. Another reason to cry out in pain.