D’Angelo Russell drove into the lane and threw up a wild floater — clank. Steven Adams corralled the rebound, and the Memphis Grizzlies looked to get out in transition. But before Adams could secure the board, in swooped Jarred Vanderbilt. In typical Jarred Vanderbilt fashion, he took the ball from Adams and found Anthony Edwards running toward the three-point line. Ant set his feet well behind the arc and shot the ball — splash. Edwards had his first career playoff bucket and the start of what would be a 36-point performance. It is rare for someone to play this well in their playoff debut, and this scoring outburst puts Edwards in rare company.
One day earlier, The Athletic’s Jon Krawcznyski tweeted, “Edwards couldn’t speak with the media today because he had to rush home and pack and get two puppies to a dog sitter before they leave for Memphis.”
We can all relate to the stress of having to pack and prepare for a trip and the pressure that comes with trying to catch a flight. But Ant easily handled what is, for some, a nightmare scenario. Seemingly, without forethought or preparation, Edwards stays ready. His approach to life is as nonchalant as his jump shot. He showed that against Memphis on Saturday, following up his opening spot-up three with a silky-smooth pull-up off of a Karl-Anthony Towns screen.
All in all, Edwards played a complete game. He had a statement performance on national television, with six dimes, two blocks, and a steal to go with his 36 points. The Minnesota Timberwolves have had little opportunity to showcase their abilities on national television over the past two seasons. Therefore, Edwards may not be much more than flashy dunks and goofy sound bites to much of the national audience. During these playoffs, he’s had the opportunity to showcase his abilities on a big stage and show the world he’s more than an Instagram Reel.
Edwards’ confidence has never waned in his or his team’s abilities. His message and his goals have stayed consistent all year long. In his post-game interview with Ros Gold-Onwude, he reiterated his constant refrain this season, saying, “We the ones, Jack!”
Gold-Onwude laughs, like we all have, at Edwards’ levity, but his continued success signals that he could not be more serious. His tone and demeanor suggest a non-serious approach to the game. But, in actuality, Ant’s got lofty goals and he’s been telling us all season. He wants to be the MVP, All-Defensive team, All-NBA, etc. Simply put, Anthony Edwards wants to be the best.
Game 1 was Ant’s second 30-point scoring output in as many games. He scored 30 to help lift the Wolves over the Los Angeles Clippers in the play-in game. His propensity for showing up in these big moments may be foreshadowing all of his aspirations coming to fruition. Win or lose, with a breakout performance in this series, he may take the leap from “one of the best young prospects” to “one of the best players” in the league.
I can’t help but think back to the narrative surrounding Edwards before the Wolves drafted him. There was a sense among scouts and league executives that his heart wasn’t in the game. Obviously, that assessment couldn’t be further from the truth, but I can understand why anyone might think that before he was given an opportunity to show his full self.
To be great at basketball, you have to believe that you are great at basketball. And yet, it seems like there is this expectation for players to show a sense of humbleness and reverence for the game — as if they have to prove that they are great before actually admitting that they are great. This double standard has caused many people, myself included, to question Ant’s drive. To some, his light-hearted nature mixed with his unabashed confidence gives him the air of someone who talks big but might not be able to back it up. But here Edwards is, backing it all up. There is little doubt left that Ant is on a trajectory to be a great player in this league.
Led by Edwards, the Timberwolves stole Game 1 in Memphis. The pivotal win takes home-court advantage away from the Grizzlies now with three games remaining on the road and three at the best venue in basketball, the Target Center. The Wolves have a chance to make a run to the second round, and Edwards has an opportunity to garner more national attention and blossom into the superstar that Minnesota fans have watched grow.