Edwards, Timberwolves cruise past Suns in Game 1 of first-round playoff series

Anthony Edwards started the run with a turnaround jumper in the third quarter.

Edwards hit another jumper on the next possession. Then a 3-pointer — and Edwards was jawing with Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant as he jogged back on defense. With Durant defending him again on the next Timberwolves possession, Edwards drilled another 3 and waved to the crowd as he’d scored 10 straight Wolves points and given them a 19-point lead in the final seconds of the frame.

The Suns only ever got within 15 points after that as the Timberwolves defended home court with a blowout 120-95 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series Saturday afternoon in front of a lively sellout crowd of 19,478 at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.

“I think everybody knows (Durant’s) my favorite player of all-time, so that was probably one of the best feelings even in my whole life,” Edwards said.

Edwards finished his day with a game-high 33 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

The Suns had cut their deficit to as few as four midway through the third quarter after trailing by 10 at halftime. Durant hit back-to-back buckets for Phoenix and Bradley Beal knocked down a pair of free throws and drilled a stepback jumper to make it a 71-67 game.

The Wolves called timeout after that, and Edwards immediately hit a jumper off the glass. He drove to the hoop for a runner a few possessions later before scoring 10 straight Timberwolves points that essentially put the game away before the fourth quarter even rolled around.

Devin Booker hit a pair of free throws after Edwards’ second 3 put Minnesota up 19, but Nickeil Alexander-Walker drilled another 3 to make it an even 20-point lead heading into the fourth.

“Everybody was ready,” said Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who had 18 points off the bench and finished with a team-best plus-minus of plus-28. “I think having that week, not having to worry about the play-in just got us going. Home-court advantage as well, sleeping in your own bed, all things like that.

“But everyone’s just locked in. Everyone was locked in. I knew from Game 82, like, once it finished knowing that they were the six (seed) and we were three, we knew what we needed to do. I think from that moment was leading to this series, how to prepare for this series.”

The Timberwolves trailed by one after a back-and-forth first quarter in which Durant poured in 11 points, including back-to-back jumpers for the Suns’ first four points of the game, but that was a far cry from the 22-point deficit they faced after the first quarter on Sunday.

Durant recorded 31 points, seven rebounds and an assist.

The Timberwolves slowly started to pull away in the second quarter, even with Edwards sitting for an extended stretch after picking up his third foul in the second quarter. Alexander-Walker was a big reason why as he poured in 12 points in the first half for a much-needed offensive boost.

“I’m looking at his plus-minus, he was plus-28 on the floor. I think he was the MVP tonight,” Edwards said of Alexander-Walker. “He made every play that we needed tonight, offensively and defensively.”

The only bad news came during the second quarter when Kyle Anderson appeared to take a hard fall. He was limping a bit as he got up before being subbed off and exiting to the locker room. While he returned to the Wolves bench, he was ruled out for the rest of the game after halftime due to a right hip pointer injury. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch did not have an update on his status postgame.

Despite facing a large deficit, the Suns weren’t ready to wave the white flag early in the fourth quarter, and they cut their deficit back down to 16 points. But Mike Conley got to the rim for a wide-open layup, and fittingly, Edwards got a steal and dunk in transition after Rudy Gobert had poked the ball away from Durant. That pushed the Wolves’ lead back to 20, and the Suns finally turned to their bench out of a timeout, waving the white flag at a white-out themed Target Center.

“I liked the way that we made all the effort plays tonight. We ran the floor better, we got to the glass better,” Finch said. “Thought we played with some physicality and toughness on defense. Those things we got to keep doing, no doubt about it. The rest of it, we’re gonna look at the tape, see where we can get a little better.”

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