There was so much to like about the Timberwolves' victory at Utah on Saturday night, you might be tempted to make a list:
• The team playing its best sustained stretch of defense of the season, from the second quarter through the finish.
• The Wolves shaking off a 12-0 fourth quarter Jazz run which erased an 11-point lead, the kind of run that has doomed the Wolves so often in the past.
• Becoming the only team in the NBA to beat the Jazz twice on their home court this season.
But this might have been the most encouraging: That it was rookie Anthony Edwards whose energy on both ends of the court kick-started the Wolves, down 16 in the second quarter, to rally for the victory.
"Ant stepped it up," Wolves coach Chris Finch said. "He gets into the paint, makes a couple big plays, and the team picks up on it, on the vibe. He stepped up at the right time for us and got some pressure on the paint."
Edwards finished the game with 23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and five of the team's 15 steals. He is the first Wolves rookie ever with a state like that. What was so dynamic about his game wasn't that he just provided the scoring as the team kicked into gear in the second quarter. It was that Edwards —who continues to state his case for Rookie of the Year — was a leader at both ends of the court.
Art with just under 4 minutes to play in the first half, after Jordan Clarkson's 9-foot jumper put the Jazz up 56-40.
Out of a timeout, the Wolves went on a roll. It began when Edwards grabbed the rebound of a Utah miss, then fed D'Angelo Russell for a three-pointer. After rebounding another Jazz miss, Edwards drove for a layup. Moments later, a driving reverse layup. He stole the ball from Mike Conley, was fouled and made one of two free throws. Moments later he scored again. By the time the half ended, that 16-point deficit was down to six.
And then the third quarter: Edwards opened the second half with another drive for a score. After a Jazz turnover, he hit a three. In all he scored 13 points in the quarter. His pass to Karl-Anthony Towns for a three-pointers gave the Wolves a 65-63 lead, their first of the game.
Edwards said his defense fueled his offense. His aggression on that offensive end was due to the way the Jazz was playing him, often going over screens, trying to deny him at the perimeter. Driving to the rim was the obvious answer.
And there's no question he lit a fire for the Wolves.
"He has shown that special quality," Finch said. "He's an explosive player, he can put an explosive streak together quickly. He has the ability to make plays that not every player can. And when you see that you're inspired. When he plays that way, with a lot of energy, that translates to his teammates."
Just as impressive was his defense. Steals aren't always the best indicator of a player's defense. But Saturday, Edwards was using his anticipation to jump lanes.
It all goes back to his days playing football growing up. He was a defensive back, something he's always reminding Finch of in practice. "I know what I'm doing. If I bit a little bit and they make a pass, it's a steal. A couple times it was like I was gong to go for one play, and I just shoot the gap and it's a steal. Football definitely helps me with picking the pass off all the time."
Teammate and fellow defender Josh Okogie, after the game, suggested that this football analogy was right, but mentioned he would probably make the better defensive back.
"No question," he said.
No way, Edwards said. "Nah, nah," he said. "Not at all."