Anthony Edwards could return to the Timberwolves sooner than expected. But they have to win games without him

Minnesota continues to receive good news regarding Anthony Edwards’ injuries. Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said Saturday that the ankle sprain was not as serious as the team initially feared.

On Sunday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Edwards couldn’t find his walking boots and was moving more and more as the swelling went down. Minnesota listed Edwards as questionable to play Monday in New York against the Knicks.

The 21-year-old guard seems unlikely to suit up at the Garden, but his progress is encouraging for the Timberwolves. His return, whenever it happens, will be welcome for a team in seemingly free fall. The Wolves have lost five of their last six games in a slump in the Western Conference.

Minnesota entered Monday ranked ninth in the ever-changing West.

If Edwards misses Monday and even Wednesday’s home game against disorganized Atlanta, that doesn’t automatically equate to a pair of Timberwolves losses.

“We have to keep our heads up. You have to keep fighting,” Finch said. “You see how we look and who is available to play come Monday and we have to be positive right now, that’s all we can do.”

The Timberwolves are clearly worse without Edwards. He is the team’s engine, barometer and lifeblood. But there are ways for Minnesota to win games, even without Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns still gone. Finch noted after the loss to the Bulls — the game in which Edwards went down — that Minnesota still has players who can score. The way to do this will be different.

“We will be less of an ISO team. Obviously you’re missing out on Ant’s dynamic gameplay. Of course you lose everything he brings,” Finch said. “We’re going to have to rely more on ball movement, body movement. More about pass-pass combinations. That kind of thing.”

That means more combinations, like the two-point guard look of Mike Conley and Jordan McLaughlin that Finch used in Saturday’s loss to Toronto. The two are ball biters who enjoy the flow. Finch also likes the three-man game that Conley, Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson can run, which often creates good looks off screens and rolls and other set-heavy offenses.

The defense should remain solid without Edwards. Yes, he’s a good defensive weapon on the ball, but he also gets lost when he plays the ball on that end more than many of his peers. Lineups featuring the likes of Conley, Anderson, Gobert, Taurean Prince and Jaden McDaniels are just as adept on the defensive end.

Honestly, the Edwards and Towns-less Timberwolves have the potential to look more like a Finch-coached group. During Minnesota’s 2021-22 COVID-19 epidemic, Minnesota began to really generate a pace-based offense that continued through the end of the season.

With just 10 games left in the regular season, it’s probably too late for such a development to happen in the current campaign, but such an approach – one based on ball movement, pace and tempo – could lead to at least a few more. .. needed wins for Minnesota in the meantime.

“We’ve got things to go through,” Finch said. “We’ll just have to research it and figure it out.”

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