A day after Anthony Edwards howled in pain as he limped off the court Friday in Chicago, he was not in the lineup for the team’s game against Toronto because of his sprained right ankle.
That wasn’t a surprise, considering the discomfort Edwards faced and given the fact that he was in a walking boot after the game.
It also came as no surprise, even when the Wolves listed Edwards as questionable on their afternoon injury report, which they did despite the fact that Edwards will undergo more ankle tests on 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 serious as initially feared.” He added that the team is still “evaluating” how long Edwards could be sidelined.
Even if the injury is minor, there are only 10 games on his schedule after Saturday’s game against the Raptors. The biggest question facing the Wolves now is whether they can survive a jam-packed Western Conference playoff run without Edwards, for as long as he’s gone. That’s not to mention their chances of winning a playoff series, should they get there. Wolves have to worry about getting there first, a task that is now much more difficult.
“There’s not a lot of math to do,” center Rudy Gobert said after Friday’s game. “I just have to go out there, whoever that is, and win games. And hopefully, Ant comes back as soon as she can. Hopefully, KAT [Karl-Anthony Towns] come back as soon as you can. And we go out with whoever is available and try to win games. Yes, we have great opportunities ahead of us.”
Wolves have another player due to return from injury soon, but it has yet to be determined when Towns will return from his right calf injury. His return seems to be getting closer every day; Towns tweeted a photo of a caged lion with the message: “Me waiting to be allowed to play…let the boy do what he loves” on Saturday afternoon.
Towns will give the Wolves an All-Star scoring option on the pitch, a player who can be the focal point of the opposing defense’s scheme. That’s something they’ll miss out on while Edwards and Towns are off the court, and it’ll make it harder for their supporting cast to fill the gaps.
Consider this: When Edwards is on the pitch, Wolves have an offensive rating of 113.7, which would rank them 16th in the league. When he’s not on the court, his offensive rating is 106.5. Edwards is not only the team’s leading scorer, but the attention defenses must pay him can open things up for his teammates just by being on the floor. Wolves’ late-game execution, even with Edwards, was inconsistent and at times, that veered too far into Edwards playing iso-ball. Wolves had to figure out what that aspect of their game will look like with Edwards out on Friday.
Wolves were able to force two overtimes against the Bulls, and were in position to win in the first overtime were it not for a late turnover by Taurean Prince, thanks in part to Mike Conley and Jaden McDaniels making some crucial shots.
Conley said he’s taking it upon himself to keep the team together and keep spirits up after a tough day on 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 where we’ve been in situations where we lose four, five tough games in a row by one or two points’ and all you need is for you to kick the door down,” Conley said. “You see [the ball] you come in, you make free throws at the end, you see us stop, and then you start to believe and trust the situation and you don’t look at the scoreboard in the third quarter thinking like ‘oh shoot, here it goes, it’s happening again.’ “
Conley hit a career-high eight 3-pointers 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 crunch time this season, delivered several key buckets on Friday. McDaniels is shooting 34.5% (10-for-29) in key minutes, which the NBA defines as a game with five minutes or less remaining and the score within five. He went 3-for-4 in crunch time against the Bulls. Now would be the time for him, or any other Wolves player, to warm up.
Otherwise, the Wolves are in danger of missing the playoffs in a season without their first-round pick. Another reason to scream in pain.