CHICAGO – There have been a number of crushing losses for the Timberwolves this season, and they have already suffered one prolonged injury to one of their star players. Surely things couldn't get worse?
This being the Wolves, of course it always can, and the worst-case scenario for the rest of the season — an injury that keeps All-Star Anthony Edwards out for a prolonged amount of time — might have begun in Friday's 139-131 double overtime loss to the Bulls.
Edwards exited at the 3-minute, 55-second mark of the first quarter because of a right ankle injury. He yelled out in pain after his foot landed awkwardly when making contact with Bulls center Nikola Vucevic.
The Wolves called timeout and attended to Edwards, who could not put pressure on his right foot as he was helped to his feet and to the locker room. He was still howling in pain as he exited the floor.
"You know how much he cares about the game and about winning," guard Mike Conley said of Edwards. "His attitude is so infectious on our team. To see him in so much pain, you look around the team, it's a blow. You know everybody took a second to realize what just happened and he probably won't be back in the game and don't know how long he's going to be out."
There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. Edwards was in a walking boot after the game and briefly said he was going to be fine. Mostly, he seemed upbeat and was joking about how his boot had no air in it.
Edwards was able to return to the bench in a walking boot to watch the last few minutes of regulation and the overtimes. They missed him in those extra periods, especially the second overtime, as their offense couldn't keep up with the Bulls.
The Wolves should have won the game earlier. They had the ball up two with one second separating the shot and game clocks in regulation when Taurean Prince turned it over. That led to a tying layup from Zach LaVine with 11.5 seconds left. Jaden McDaniels then missed a shot that would have won it, and the Wolves didn't have enough scoring punch to keep pace in the second overtime. DeMar DeRozan finished with 49 points for the Bulls and LaVine had 39.
"It's a devastating loss. We got to win that game," coach Chris Finch said. "Up two, 26 seconds left with the ball. No reason to do anything other than to make them come get us. We just throw it out of bounds. Couldn't get a shot off in some key moments, too."
Conley (28 points), who had a career high with eight threes, and McDaniels (25 points) tried to provide the offense for the Wolves down the stretch. The Wolves also had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Kyle Anderson was called for a double-dribble before getting off a shot.
After the game, Anderson let out a few primal yells of frustration in the locker room. Conley said he was going to do his best to keep the team together.
"We're going to have to find a way to move forward," Conley said. "We're going to need everybody. I was proud of the way that we fought, regardless of the circumstance. Man, would we have loved to have won."
Even if they had, it doesn't erase the concern the Wolves have now that Edwards is hurt.
A potential loss of Edwards for a significant length of time could cripple the Wolves' chances of making and advancing in the playoffs. The 21-year-old is their leading scorer, a first-time All-Star, and the player who attracts the most defensive attention on the floor. Edwards has played in every game this season, a point of pride for him, while averaging a career-high 25 points, six rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
He has helped keep their playoff hopes alive despite the prolonged absence of Karl-Anthony Towns because of a right calf injury. Towns, who has been out since Nov. 28, is making progress in his return and has recently increased his practice activity. He was one of the people who helped Edwards off the floor. Now who knows if the two will play together again this season?
Finch was not in the mood for a pity party when asked about the breaks the Wolves have endured this season.
"Nobody cares about what's happened to the Timberwolves. We'll figure it out and lace 'em up [Saturday]. We'll fight. I know that."
But they may never be fighting again at full strength from here on out.