With 10 games to go, Edwards’ injury could change Wolves’ playoff picture

A day after Anthony Edwards howled in pain as he limped off the ground in Chicago on Friday, he was not included in the line-up for the team’s game against Toronto because of his right ankle injury.

That came as no shock considering the discomfort Edwards was facing and the fact that he was in hiking boots after the game.

It was also no surprise when Wolves listed Edwards as questionable about what they were doing in their afternoon injury report, although Edwards will have further tests on his ankle on Sunday when the team is in New York.

Coach Chris Finch said on the team’s radio show ahead of Saturday’s game in Toronto that Edwards is still in the walking boot and the injury “isn’t as bad as initially feared.” He added that the team is still “seeing through” how long Edwards could be sidelined.

Though the injury is minor, he only has 10 games on the schedule after Saturday’s game against the Raptors. The biggest question facing Wolves now is whether they can survive in a packed Western Conference playoff race without Edwards — however long he may be absent. Not to mention their chances of winning a playoff series should they get there. The wolves must first take care of getting there, a task that is now much more difficult.

“You don’t have to do a lot of calculations,” said center Rudy Gobert after Friday’s game. “I just have to get out there, whoever’s out there, and win games. And hopefully Ant will come back as soon as possible. Hopefully CAT [Karl-Anthony Towns] comes back as soon as he can. And we go out with whoever’s available and try to win games. Yes, we have some big chances ahead of us.”

Wolves have another player soon to return from injury, but it’s still unclear when Towns will return from his right calf injury. His return seems to be drawing nearer by the day; Towns tweeted a picture of a caged lion on Saturday afternoon with the message, “Waiting to be released to play… let the kid do what he loves.”

The Cities give Wolves an all-star scoring option on the ground, a player who can be the focus of an opposing defense’s scheme. They’ll miss that as long as Edwards and Towns are both off the ground, and will make it harder for their supporting cast to fill in the blanks.

Consider this: with Edwards down, Wolves have an offensive rating of 113.7, which would place them 16th in the league. When he lifts off the ground, her offense rating is 106.5. Not only is Edwards the team’s top scorer, but the attention the defense has to give him can open things up for his teammates just by being on the ground. The Wolves’ late-game execution was inconsistent even with Edwards, and at times that revolved too much around Edwards playing iso-ball. Wolves had to figure out what that aspect of their game would look like if Edwards is out on Friday.

Wolves were able to force two overtimes against the Bulls and were able to win in the first overtime if not a late Taurean Prince turnover, thanks in part to Mike Conley and Jaden McDaniels scoring some clutch shots.

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Conley said he was taking it upon himself to keep the team together and keep spirits up after a tough day on Friday and recent heavy losses to the Bulls and Celtics.

“I bring a lot of that to this team. I even spoke to him [Prince] after the game like, ‘Man, I’ve been on teams where we’ve been in situations where we’ve lost four, five tough games in a row by a point or two,’ and all you need is you smash the door,” Conley said. “See [the ball] go in, take free throws at the end, you see us stopping and then you start to believe and trust in the situation and not look at the scoreboard in the third quarter and think, ‘Oh shoot, here it goes , It’s happening again .’ “

Conley hit a career-high eight threes in Edwards’ absence and was already beginning to search for his shot more before Edwards went down. This will continue. Meanwhile, McDaniels, who has struggled with clutch time this season, found several key buckets on Friday. McDaniels shoots 34.5% (10 to 29) in clutch minutes, which the NBA defines as a game with five or fewer minutes remaining and a score within five. He was 3-for-4 in clutch time against the Bulls. Now would have been the time for him or any other Wolves player to warm up.

Otherwise, Wolves are in danger of missing the playoffs in a season where they don’t have a first-round draft pick. Another reason to scream in pain.


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