Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards sat down next to each other after another disappointing loss. The young Timberwolves put up a fight in Miami against the Heat, but the tension that crackled throughout the game, both for the players and the trigger-happy officials, seemed to be too much at times.
Towns flailed throughout the game against a physical Heat defense that was emboldened by the lack of whistles. Edwards was flummoxed for much of the first half by the aggressive trapping the Heat threw at him to get the ball out of his hands. D’Angelo Russell was ejected and the Wolves picked up five technical fouls in all from an officiating crew that had its struggles all night.
When the dust settled on a 121-112 loss, culminating in a shit-talking sessionbetween old friends Towns and Jimmy Butler, there was a feeling that if the Wolves had somehow been able to keep their composure through a series of calls they felt went the wrong way, that the outcome could have been different. Butler (25 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Bam Adebayo didn’t let the lackluster performance by the ref crew rattle them.
The Heat are playing for playoff positioning and had so much more riding on the outcome of the game. The loss, if anything, helped the Wolves with their lottery odds. But there could have been another benefit on Friday night in Miami. If the Timberwolves are ever going to pull themselves up from this Western Conference gutter, they are going to have to band together and fight the way Butler and Adebayo did. Watching Towns and Edwards take turns having each other’s backs in the postgame press conference, it feels like these two essential players are strengthening a partnership that the Wolves desperately need.
They took turns riding for each other after the hot-tempered game. When I asked Edwards about the way the Heat attacked him with the double so aggressively, Towns chirped in and said that’s exactly what they should be doing. I followed up asking Towns about the exchange with Butler, but the 19-year-old Edwards deftly stepped right in.
“Man, they grown men, dog,” Edwards said. “They was just talking, having a regular conversation if you ask me. If y’all come to see us compete, there’s no competition if we’re not talking shit to each other. You know what I’m saying. Whatever y’all can take that with a grain of salt. They grown-ass men, having a conversation. Regular conversation.”
Edwards has shown a keen understanding of the media machine all season long, but this was a particularly savvy moment for him. Even though he was in high school when the Butler theatrics popped off in Minnesota, Edwards was keenly aware of the history and of Towns’ disdain for being drawn into the fight and the social media circus that followed. So when the question came, Edwards jumped right in to stamp it out and then let Towns decide if he wanted to weigh in.
“Regular conversation,” Edwards reiterated. “That’s all it was. Nothing else, nothing more.”
After scoring seven points in the first half while trying to figure out how to attack the Heat defense, Edwards got rolling in the third quarter. He put his head down and went to the rim, fighting force with force. He had plenty of frustration of his own while looking for foul calls that never came. But he kept coming.