When the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, they envisioned days like Saturday.
Behind Edwards’ playoff debut of 36 points, seven rebounds, six assists on 12-for-23 shooting, including 4 of 9 from three, the seventh-seeded T-Wolves took Game 1 on the road against second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
Edwards put on a show, from long-range jump shots to pull-ups and even step-back jumpers. However, it was his willingness to use his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame and freakish athleticism to constantly attack the rim and put pressure on the Grizzlies’ defense around the rim that made him unstoppable. The former No. 1 overall pick either scored, got fouled or, as evinced by his assists total, created shots for teammates.
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The 36-point playoff debut is the fourth-highest debut in league history. It ties him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gary Brokaw, Julius Erving and Derrick Rose. Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic holds the record with 42 points in his playoff debut against the Clippers in the NBA bubble.
Edwards was asked why he likes playing against the Grizzlies in his postgame presser.
“I feel like we match up well against them, 1 to 15. The equipment guys, in every area we match up well.”
In his first career playoff game, Anthony Edwards scored 36 points.
Edwards is one of 4 players to score 35 points in a playoff game before turning 21, joining Derrick Rose, Tyler Herro, and Magic Johnson. pic.twitter.com/IN4bk9TMCT
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 16, 2022
“AntMan1” Is The Future In The Twin Cities: Has All-NBA Talent
During Edwards’ rookie season he showed flashes, and nearly overtook Hornets star LaMelo Ball to win Rookie of the Year. As with most rookies, there were questions about his shot selection and motor.
Playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell seemed to be a struggle at times, but this season all have had their roles defined, and it’s paid huge dividends. Head coach Chris Finch has played a huge role in the development of Edwards from Year One to Year Two.
For Edwards, it’s about using his natural scoring ability from all three levels to impact the game, while also showing off his All-NBA defensive capabilities. He did just ,that averaging 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for the upstart Timberwolves. His arrival has signaled a belief in Minnesota, something they haven’t seen since the days of Kevin Garnett.
Edwards says he loves Finch. He lets them play and be themselves, “until the game is tight and then you take a bad shot. Then he yells at you,” Edwards jokingly explains.
Former Wolves star Wally Szczerbiak hit Twitter to share his enthusiasm. The last time the franchise won a playoff series was in 2004, and “Wally’s World” was an integral piece.
“@Timberwolves I see you. Making us all proud. Let’s goooooo.”
The NBA Talent Of The Future On Display
The series is intriguing because it features some of the up-and-coming superstars of the NBA. Memphis has a dangerous backcourt of Desmond Bane and Ja Morant, while the tandem of KAT and Ant-Man will terrorize Western Conference opponents for years to come.
The energy was high, as even the fathers of Morant and KAT were talking trash to each other during the game but embraced afterwards. Social media got a kick out of their interaction. Two Black fathers with exceptional sons basking in the moment and reaping the fruits of their labor.
KAT and Ja's dads showing love after Game 1 😂 pic.twitter.com/QVL9MKcDOY
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 16, 2022
That’s just one of the many storylines that makes this particular series interesting.
Edwards Chosen As Most Likely To Break Out In Playoffs: Was Game 1 An Indication?
Prior to the NBA playoffs Edwards was chosen as the most likely to break out. The former Georgia star has been killing the game, and his offensive repertoire has developed quickly since his rookie season in 2020. He started with a 30-point, five-triple outing to help propel the T-Wolves past the Clippers in the play-in tourney.
“AntMan1” oozes confidence and believes he’s the best player on the floor. His arrival has helped co-franchise player Karl Anthony-Towns elevate his game and draw less double-teams. The game seems to come easy for him. And while he and the Wolves play at the league’s fastest pace, it still looks slow for Ant.
Many picked the Grizzlies to win this series in five games, including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Jalen Rose. Looks like the guys from Prince’s hometown got the message.