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Neither Anthony Edwards nor Karl-Anthony Towns can do it alone for the Timberwolves

The Wolves need Edwards and Towns to play well, and the players need each other at their best.

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Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards (1) talks to center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) in the second half Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, against the Denver Nuggets in Denver, Colorado.
Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns knows by now you can’t succeed by yourself in this league. He has spent many years trying to overcome illegitimate NBA rosters with his own excellence, only to see his efforts come up short every time.

The NBA is a group project.

“I don’t think the Minnesota Timberwolves’ struggles are related to KAT’s struggles or numbers, whether they be real or empty or what people think of it,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “You can’t be good in this game alone.”

It’s why the question of “whose team is this?” between Towns and Anthony Edwards, while a fun talker, is a moot point. Towns and Edwards need each other if they want to achieve high levels of team success.

That relates to a recent conversation Edwards had with veteran teammate Taurean Prince. Edwards has come to the realization that if he and Towns “lock in with each other” — if they find true synergy on the floor — “I feel like we will win so many more games.”

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Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) defends Denver guard Facundo Campazzo (7) in the second half Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, in Denver.
Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports

During a victory in Denver on Wednesday, Edwards and Towns combined for 70 points on 26-for-39 shooting from the field. It sparked memories of last season’s scintillating win in Phoenix, when the duo each scored more than 40 points as the Wolves knocked off the eventual Western Conference champs.

“If I’m going downhill, you’ve got to pick your poison,” Edwards said. “I wouldn’t want to let KAT shoot all day. You give him 15 open 3’s, he’s going to hit 12 of them. That’s how good he can shoot. And I wouldn’t want to just switch the big onto me, because I’m going to eventually get it.”

The Timberwolves are at their best when their one-two punch is rolling as a unit. That’s not to exclude D’Angelo Russell, who’s been excellent manning the point for Minnesota for much of this season. But Edwards and Towns are the faces of this franchise, and the likely driving forces behind any high-end achievements.

“If coach finds a way to just tell me and KAT, ‘Hey, this is what y’all do. Do this,’ ” Edwards said.

Perhaps that’s happening. Finch recently told Edwards to pass to Towns and chase, leading to different handoff situations or putting the defense in spots where it has to choose who to prioritize. Steph Curry has made a living off passing and chasing. It inspires off-ball movement that’s next-to impossible for defenses to stop entirely.

“After that, I feel like it’s just been going up since then,” Edwards said.

Edwards noted the two picked their spots in Wednesday’s win. Sometimes, Towns would be the aggressor, then it would be Edwards’ turn.

“We play off each other. I tell him, sometimes roll, sometimes pop. If they’re going to blitz me, roll. If they goin’ to low drop and my man trail, you pop,” Edwards said. “He dominate, man. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he can do everything. So, playing with him makes my game a lot easier.”

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Edwards almost expects Towns to dominate a game; frankly, everyone does. It’s why when Towns wasn’t making his normal impact last week, Edwards told the big man he needed to attack earlier and not allow teams to take him out of the game via double teams.

“He knows it came from a great place in my heart. Me and him talked about it, for sure,” Edwards said. “He did everything I wanted him to do (on Wednesday). He dominated, went quick and he was Karl-Anthony Towns.”

Edwards doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body, so nothing he says is vindictive. Any criticism is meant to be constructive. Towns never seemed to take the message the wrong way.

It was almost fitting that Edwards and Towns both achieved round-number career milestones — 10,000 points for Towns, 2,000 for Edwards — on the same evening. The vision for this franchise moving forward is the wing-big combo notching milestones alongside one another for years to come.

Edwards is one of the hardest players in the league to stop when he’s getting downhill. Towns is the best shooting big in the NBA, although after he buried 10 triples Wednesday, Edwards may try to contest that Towns isn’t the best shooter on his own team.

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Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards runs up the court Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena in Denver.
Ron Chenoy / USA Today Sports

“Ant thinks he’s the best baseball player, football player, skier, curler, walker, runner,” Towns joked Wednesday.

“Anything with a ‘player’ behind it, I’m the best in the world,” Edwards responded.

But not even he can do it alone.

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