HOUSTON – Timberwolves coach Chris Finch and guard Anthony Edwards had a chat after Wednesday's loss to the Nuggets, and one of the topics they broached was on-ball defense.
Finch has often praised Edwards' ability to guard on the ball, and Edwards seems to relish the opportunity to shut down another team's top scorers. But Finch and Edwards had noticed this wasn't happening as much it did previously this season or last season.
"We had gotten away from putting him on the ball a lot more, and particularly these high-leverage matchups," Finch said. "We've just been trying to save him some.
"He needs to do this because he can be a weapon for us defensively."
The Wolves have put a lot on Edwards' plate as the focal point of the offense since Karl-Anthony Towns went out because of a right calf injury, and it can be difficult for Edwards to handle the top responsibilities on offense and defense while maintaining a consistent level of play in both areas. The Wolves have needed his offense more of late, so his on-ball defense took a back seat.
Both he and Finch are making that more of a priority. The middle ground they seem to have found is that Edwards will take over as a primary defender late in games. That's what he has done in the past two games.
"From here on out, I think that's pretty much the goal," Edwards said. "Me and [Finch] talked about it in the fourth quarter. Go seek out their best isolation scorer they got. Go get him."
Edwards has said he has been watching film of opponents more than he ever has so far in his career, and credits one of the Wolves' staff members, Addi Walters, for preparing the necessary film of opponents for him.
"Any time they get into an action, especially in the fourth, I'm trying to learn what they get into," Edwards said. "I take a lot of pride, especially individually. I tell my whole team, if you see me on an island, don't help. Unless I get blown by, which I don't think will happen too many times."
Edwards has a tendency to lose his man when he is playing off the ball. Playing on the ball can keep him more focused. It can also alleviate some of the pressure on Jaden McDaniels, who guards the other team's best scorers on a nightly basis. McDaniels can be just as effective off the ball, Edwards said, and him plus McDaniels engaged defensively can be a potent combination.
"Jaden is great on the ball. He's the best player in here on the ball," Edwards said. "But him off the ball is crazy. Because he's the low man, he blocking stuff. It's crazy. Getting steals, he's so long. I think he's better with me on the ball in the fourth."
Center Rudy Gobert entered the night a game-time decision because of right groin soreness that held him out of the previous three games. Gobert went through his usual pre-game workout and was back in the lineup. Forward Taurean Prince (left ankle sprain), who came in as questionable, was out.
Point guard Jordan McLaughin worked out before the game as he recovers from a left calf strain, but Finch said there was no timetable for McLaughlin's return.