PREVIEW: Minnesota Timberwolves look to bounce back at home vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Mar 19, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) runs the court against the Phoenix Suns during the first half at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The advancements in Anthony Edwards’ game have been apparent during the Minnesota Timberwolves’ last four games.

In the first three games, Edwards’ offensive firepower made the case, as he averaged 35 points per game and shot 49.4 percent from the floor, playing nearly 40 minutes per game.

In Minnesota’s most recent game, a Friday loss at Phoenix, it showed in how the Suns defended Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.

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At times, Phoenix kept both defenders with Edwards on the pick-and-roll, making it more difficult for Edwards as he finished with just 11 points on 4 of 18 shooting.

Heading into Monday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Minneapolis, Edwards is looking to adjust to the way teams have adjusted to him as the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft. He has progressed from a bench player to start the season into a starter by late January and is now one of the focal points of Minnesota’s offense.

“It’s respect and it’s a lesson,” Edwards said after Friday’s loss. “I learned something. I can go watch this game and see how other teams might think is the right way to guard me. This game will help me for sure because that’s probably how teams are going to guard me from here on out.”

After dropping their first five games since Ryan Saunders was fired and Chris Finch brought in to replace him, the Timberwolves are 3-3 since the All-Star break.

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While Edwards has made Minnesota’s offense go recently, the Thunder have been fueled defensively by Luguentz Dort.

Dort came up big again Sunday in Oklahoma City’s 114-112 win at Houston, blocking John Wall’s layup try in the final seconds.

“I can’t say enough about him defensively,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of Dort. “It’s almost like you can ignore it at this point. He just goes out there and has elite defensive performances.”

The Thunder’s starting lineup in Sunday’s win, according to the Thunder, was the second-youngest in NBA history.

While the 21-year-old Dort, who was brought aboard as an undrafted free agent before last season, wasn’t Oklahoma City’s oldest starter, he was the most experienced, playing in his 75th NBA game.

Oklahoma City figures to have at least a bit more veteran presence in the lineup Monday, with Al Horford expected to play after sitting out the first game of the back-to-back for rest.

Daigneault wouldn’t say if Thunder leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who sat out Sunday with right shoulder soreness, would return in Minnesota, but that Gilgeous-Alexander’s ailment wasn’t “long term at all. It’s just maintenance and caution.”

Darius Bazley, George Hill and Josh Hall remain out for Oklahoma City.

Monday’s game is the third and final meeting between the Timberwolves and Thunder this season and the first in Minneapolis.

The teams split in back-to-back days in Oklahoma City in early February, with the Timberwolves winning the first game 106-103 and the Thunder taking the second 120-118.

Minnesota’s win was decided on D’Angelo Russell’s 3-pointer with three seconds left.

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Russell hasn’t played since Feb. 8, though recently returned to on-court work after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

Minnesota also remains without backup point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who has missed six games due to the league’s health and safety protocols, and Malik Beasley, who is eligible to return from suspension Saturday.

–Field Level Media