Anthony Edwards plays the game with a smile on his face, even after he banged bodies Sunday night in the Timberwolves' 114-112 victory over Portland that ended his team's Target Center losing streak at six games.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft collided with Trail Blazers big man Enes Kanter late in the third quarter, a hit that sent him temporarily out of the game and made him late for a postgame media teleconference.
But it couldn't stop Edwards from a career-high night — as short as his career might be so far — with 34 points and six three-pointers, a performance that outdid Portland stars Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony to the finish.
"That's why it took me so long to come to media," Edwards said to reporters after the Wolves' first victory in four home games under new coach Chris Finch. "I was getting treatment. My hip hurt bad, but I'm all right. At first, it was my ribs and my wind got knocked out. That's why I took those threes [late in the game]. I couldn't move. I wanted to get to the rim, but I couldn't move."
But Edwards still mostly smiled his way to the Wolves' first Target Center victory since Jan. 31 against Cleveland.
So, too, did veteran teammate Karl-Anthony Towns.
After Towns went for 34 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday's 125-121 loss to the Trail Blazers, the Portland defense looked to slow down the center, so on Sunday Towns instead turned playmaker with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting, eight assists and eight rebounds.
"I'm not here to satisfy fantasy owners," Towns said. "I'm here to put one in the left column. I'm not going to be selfish and take shots to get stats and stuff."
On Sunday, that meant letting the Blazers defense swarm him and watch Edwards deliver a performance that kept the teenager they call "Ant" smiling, even through all the pain.
"Because he knew he was getting it, I don't know a better way to say it," Towns said of the shots — 12-for-24 from the field, 6-for-14 on threes — made by Edwards. "He backed up the talk. We're very fortunate to have him. He's a special player. He's going to be special for a long time. We fed the beast and he made the shots."
Edwards' scoring negated Lillard's 38 points, which he accumulated despite a scoreless second quarter. The Wolves withstood a Blazers team that trailed by 14 points with five minutes left and pulled within two in the final 40 seconds.
The Wolves started the game by going 8-for-17 at the free-throw line and finished it by making 21 of 22, including eight by Ricky Rubio in the final 30 seconds to keep Portland from having a chance to tie. Josh Okogie went 0-for-2 from the field, 0-for-1 on threes and 10-for-11 at the line.
"I've never seen that before," teammate Jaylen Nowell said on a night his team played without rising rookie Jaden McDaniels because of the NBA's health and safety protocols. "I like that, though."
A No. 1 overall draft pick himself, Towns calls Edwards a man with "a mark on his back" because the Wolves chose him over everyone else in last year's draft.
"It was the right decision for us as an organization," Towns said. "I want to make that very clear. … I tell him every single game: Be special. I never tell him be special by getting 40. I tell him be special all around, offensively, defensively, as a teammate. If he can do those things, he's going to be really good for a long time."
Lillard wrote a message on a jersey for Edwards on Sunday, and the rookie said he is going to get it framed Monday.
Edwards said he hasn't earned his teammates' respect yet. "I haven't earned anything yet," he said. "To talk about who they should have taken No. 1, they took me. It's over. There's nothing to talk about. Whoever is still talking about that, then they can just kick rocks, I guess."
The reporter did not attend this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.