Part of the fun in watching Anthony Edwards includes the possibility that Edwards will come up with an acrobatic, physics-defying dunk over one of his opponents. It's a move the Timberwolves guard has executed multiple times, and he knows how it can energize his team and the crowd.
But in Tuesday's 106-103 win over the Thunder, Edwards showed there's a risk that comes with that.
After trying to dunk over the Thunder's Jaylin Williams with 3 minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Edwards landed hard on the floor on his right hip.
He remained there during the ensuing timeout and needed help getting back to the bench. After the timeout, he stayed in the game momentarily and shot the free throws owed to him and finished with 21 points. But after a few possessions, it was clear he had trouble moving. The Wolves called timeout and Edwards left for the locker room favoring that hip.
He returned to the bench during the fourth quarter and although the team announced he was questionable to return because of a right hip contusion, he was done for the night. Edwards had led the Wolves back from a 12-point deficit by scoring the team's first 11 points of the third quarter, but his teammates had to pick up the slack — and the scoring — the rest of the night.
They did so for another impressive victory over the Thunder (11-6), who are among four teams within two games of the Western Conference-leading Wolves (13-4), who also finished 3-1 in the in-season tournament but did not qualify for the eight-team knockout round.
"I feel bad, but I feel good because we won," Edwards said.
He was in a jovial mood in the locker room afterward even as he was still in noticeable pain. He grimaced as he sat down and needed help putting on socks. It's possible Edwards could miss some time even if he seemingly avoided a serious injury.
But he was joking with Mike Conley about all the shots Conley would get if he had to miss a game or multiple games and he was singing the praises of Tuesday's unlikely hero — Troy Brown Jr. Brown came off the bench for 17 points, which included seven of the Wolves' final nine of the game.
"I love coaching him because he's just in the same mood every day," coach Chris Finch said. "He's really happy whether he's in the rotation or not. He's patient. He understands. He gets it. He's a lot better shooter than I thought he was. We knew he could shoot, but he's one of those guys where he catches the ball and lets it fly, I think it's going in automatically."
With the way Brown played Tuesday, Finch might not have been alone in thinking that on one of the most pivotal shots of the night. As the shot clock ran down with the Wolves ahead 98-96, Brown pulled up from 29 feet and hit a three-pointer to put the Wolves up by five. He then drove for a layup to make it 103-98 with 31.6 seconds left and hit one of two free throws with 4.5 to play to put the Wolves up three before Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed a potential tying three as time ran out.
"At this point that's the NBA — you can literally go from being sixth man to not in the rotation," Brown said. "It's just based off what the team needs at the time. To me, I've had my ups and downs in the career. Just being in different positions and learning how to deal with all that mentally has helped me a lot. Now I just try to be as happy as I can and bring energy to my teammates and stay ready."
Brown also helped on defense, where Rudy Gobert had another All-Defensive team sort of evening. Gobert finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds and was the key cog in the zone defense the Wolves deployed a lot in the second half after the Thunder shot 54% in the first. Oklahoma City shot only 31% the rest of the night.
Former Minnehaha Academy star Chet Holmgren scored 16 points on 6-for-20 shooting as he tangled with Gobert (17 points, 16 rebounds) most of the night. Holmgren made his Target Center NBA debut after a foot injury cost him all of last season. He had several family and friends in attendance that he greeted after the game.
"I used to always take the bus or the train up to Target Center because there's a Lifetime underneath and I used to play pickup there all the time," Holmgren said. "... Seeing everything when you're driving by is like, 'I used to live here,' which is kind of weird to think about. But again, all that goes out the window when it's game time."
Josh Giddey, who continues to play while the NBA investigates a potential inappropriate relationship he had with a minor, had 10 points for the Thunder. The Target Center crowd booed Giddey every time he touched the ball. Gilgeous-Alexander, who squared off against his cousin Nickeil Alexander-Walker, had a game-high 32 points.
"Just try to give them something different, make them more uncomfortable," Gobert said of the zone defense. "Obviously I thought the zone was great, but I just think our mindset was much better. I thought we were more physical in the second half, and our transition defense was better."
Gobert was happy with the way the Wolves compensated for the loss of Edwards. Conley (nine points, eight assists) didn't check out of the game the rest of the way while Naz Reid had 15 points and seven rebounds on 6-for-9 shooting.
"I guarantee these were games we probably would have lost last year, and even they tell me the year before," Conley said. "For us to still be able to deal with that adversity, guys not hanging their head — we always say we have a deep team for a reason."