Updated April 21st, 2024 at 12:40 IST

Timberwolves take down Suns 120-95 in Game 1 behind 33 points from Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards scored 18 of his 33 points in the third quarter and had nine rebounds to carry the Minnesota Timberwolves in a tone-setting 120-95 victory.

Anthony Edwards has a go at Kevin Durant | Image:AP
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Anthony Edwards scored 18 of his 33 points in the third quarter and had nine rebounds to carry the Minnesota Timberwolves in a tone-setting 120-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns to start the first round of the NBA playoffs on Saturday.

Karl-Anthony Towns added 19 points, Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting and Rudy Gobert locked down the lane with 14 points, 16 rebounds and constant shot-altering defense to lead the Wolves to their first Game 1 home win in the playoffs in 20 years.

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The sixth-seeded Suns won all three regular-season matchups in which the third-seeded Wolves trailed by double digits for the entirety of the second halves.

“We just wanted to show we were the desperate team,” Edwards said.

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Kevin Durant scored 31 points on 11-for-17 shooting to lead the Suns, whose disadvantages in depth and size were exploited. Devin Booker had 18 points on 5-for-16 shooting and Bradley Beal added 15 points, but the Suns were outrebounded 52-28 and outscored 52-34 in the paint by the Wolves.

Game 2 is in Minneapolis on Tuesday before the best-of-seven series shifts to Phoenix for Game 3.

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“It’s going to be hard to beat these guys,” said Edwards, who shot 14 for 24. “It’s just one game. They’re going to be ready to go the next time we play them.”

Edwards led a 19-4 run to close the third quarter, stretching his arms wide to connect with the crowd after a couple of his biggest shots down that stretch. He stared and barked at Durant, who could only grin at the 22-year-old’s bravado.

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With 3:37 left, Edwards put the bow on this performance by stealing the ball from Durant — after Gobert had poked it loose — and finishing with a slam on the other end.

His enthusiasm was contagious throughout the afternoon. After picking up his third foul late in the second quarter, Edwards was twirling a towel on the bench in tribute to the effort to take the lead into double digits for the first time in the game.

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Durant, the 14-time All-Star with two championship rings who arrived in the desert a little over a year ago in the first move in the major overhaul of the roster, was in prime playoff form. Be it a fadeaway, a turnaround or a spot-up, the Wolves and their NBA -best defense had no answer when the 6-foot-10 Durant climbed into the air with his smooth jump shot.

But Booker, the anchor of the big three with Durant and Beal who’s the only player left from the 2021 team that reached the NBA Finals, had nothing to match. He couldn’t get layups to fall, let alone jumpers.

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“They’ve got some great perimeter defenders on that team, so we can do a more creative job of getting him open,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said.

Grayson Allen, the league’s leading 3-point shooter, missed all three of his shots and had just four points before leaving with a sprained ankle that puts his availability for Game 2 in question.

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The Wolves had sellouts for every home game this season for the first time since they moved into Target Center 34 years ago. Their fans — as antsy for a postseason run as any in American pro sports — brought finals-level energy to the first round that the Wolves have not escaped since their only advancement 20 years ago, a crowd that included former (Adrian Peterson) and current (Justin Jefferson) Vikings stars.

The big-money players gave the Wolves what they needed, but one of their edges in this series ought to be a bench that backed it up with a 41-18 scoring advantage on the Suns’ reserves.

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Alexander-Walker was in the thick of the second quarter surge, highlighted by his interception of a stray pass by Allen in the lane to key a fast break layup near the final minute of the half. Alexander-Walker hit a corner 3-pointer right before the third-quarter buzzer for a 20-point lead.

“It’s a make-or-miss league,” Durant said. “You’ve got to knock down shots if you want to win.”

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Minnesota went 20 for 22 from the free-throw line. Towns was 8 for 8, and Gobert went 6 for 7.

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Published April 21st, 2024 at 09:43 IST