Edwards scores 43 points, Reid erupts in 4th to help Timberwolves beat Nuggets 106-99 in Game 1

DENVER (AP) – Anthony Edwards’ decision-making was as spot-on as his shot-making.

When he drew a crowd, he passed. When he was open, he shot – and usually swished.

Edwards scored a playoff career-high – and franchise postseason-record – 43 points, Naz Reid had 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets 106-99 in Game 1 of the second-round series Saturday night.

Edwards was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 25 points, and Reid took over in the fourth quarter. Karl-Anthony Towns had 20 points despite dealing with foul trouble. The Timberwolves shot a blistering 71.1% from the floor in the second half.

“The whole team, we trust each other,” said Edwards, who was 17 of 29 from the floor as he posted his third career playoff game with 40 or more points. “It doesn’t matter down the stretch who takes the shot.”

All part of Edwards’ evolution on the court.

“I’m proud of the way he’s accepted the kind of growth he needed to have to be where he is,” said Conley, who finished with 14 points and 10 assists. “It’s not easy for a 22-, 23-year-old to make that adjustment so quickly.”

“Twenty-two,” Edwards playfully chimed in.

Game 2 is Monday night in Denver.

Three days after undergoing knee surgery, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch was on the bench in the second row, next to the scorer’s table and behind assistant coach Micah Nori, who did the instructing, roaming and switching. Finch ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee last week when Wolves point guard Mike Conley collided with him late in Minnesota’s Round 1 clincher at Phoenix.

“All the plays we scored on were my calls and the ones that we didn’t were his,” cracked Nori. “(Finch) was great. He was like, ‘We don’t want to make it clunky,’ is the term he used. We did a good job of that.”

Two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic had 32 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for Denver, but also had seven turnovers. Jamal Murray scored 17 points after being held scoreless in the first half. Murray, the hero for the Nuggets in Round 1 with a pair of game-winners that allowed Denver to eliminate the Lakers in five games, finished 6 of 14 from the floor.

“We need to do a better job of making them make tough shots, maybe make the extra pass,” Jokic said.

Tied at 84, the Timberwolves went on an 18-7 run to break it open. Reid had 10 straight points for the Timberwolves at one point during the pivotal stretch. Reid was the beneficiary of the Nuggets making sure Edwards was constantly covered.

“When (Edwards) draws three people, he makes the right play all the time,” Reid said. “I’ve seen him grow from Day 1 to where he is – a superstar in the making, if he’s not now.”

Last year, the Wolves were a tough first-round opponent for Denver despite being without Reid (broken wrist) and Jaden McDaniels (broken hand) and with Towns coming off a severe calf strain that had cost him 52 games. This time, not a single Timberwolves player was listed on the injury report.

“Going against the best player in the world is always fun,” Edwards said about facing Jokic. “Going against the best team in the world is always fun.”

Aside from being healthier, the Timberwolves were much better thanks to the dramatic improvement in Edwards’ game, Denver coach Michael Malone suggested.

“There’s no weaknesses in his game,” Malone said. “And it’s going to be a hell of a challenge trying to slow him down.”

Especially when he has so much help.

“Naz Reid got going. Karl-Anthony Towns got going. Mike Conley got going – where Anthony Edwards carried the day in that first half,” Malone said. “But the second half I just felt not nearly enough discipline and physicality and they were able to get whatever they wanted.”

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