Stephen A. Smith Jumps on Timberwolves Bandwagon

Stephen A. Smith, Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves came into the second round of the NBA playoffs as an underdog. Starting out on the road, and going up against the defending champion Denver Nuggets, that made plenty of sense. Then game one happened and Stephen A. Smith became an immediate believer.

Despite being contained to one seat adjacent from the Wolves bench, following patellar tendon surgery, Chris Finch worked with assistant coach Micah Nori to construct a gameplan that left the Nuggets utterly baffled.

Superstar Nikola Jokic was flustered and depleted, as Karl Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Naz Reid kept him in a constant state of motion. Anthony Edwards went off for 43 points, and the Timberwolves had officially put the NBA, along with Stephen A. Smith, on notice.

Stephen A. Smith believes Minnesota Timberwolves are now favorites vs Denver Nuggets

Speaking on ESPN’s First Take Monday morning prior to game 2, Stephen A. Smith disagreed with his co-host Shannon Sharpe, who wasn’t ready to count the Nuggets out quite yet. Stephen A., on the other hand, had already seen enough. Series over, he claims.

“I’m just of the mindset that Minnesota is going to win this series, I got to be honest with you. I’m not going to go so far as to say they are going to The Finals, even though I think there’s a pretty good chance they’re doing it, I want to see the Dallas, Oklahoma City series unfold before I’m willing to make that proclamation. Denver, the reigning NBA champions, are something to get through before we’re going to go that route.”

Rather than just simply go off of momentum that Minnesota positively generated during a dominating game one performance against the Nuggets, Smith came with plenty of ammo and information to back up his stance.

“Here’s where I will tell you why I think Minnesota needs to be favored. Everything is not always about the numbers, but I’ll give you numbers. Did you know in six playoff games Anthony Edwards is averaging 33.5 against Denver…That’s number one. Number two, you see the big bodies they’re able to throw at Jokic, nobody else can do that in the league. The Minnesota Timberwolves can. I thought it was a brilliant move of their coaching staff to insert Karl Anthony Towns on Jokic, because even though he doesn’t have the girth, the mass, he has the height and quickness to stay in front of Jokic and make sure there’s some level of resistance, and you’ve got Rudy Gobert helping on the back end in case Jokic gets closer and closer to the basket.”

Timberwolves are healthy, Nuggets… not so much

Beyond just looking at what Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony Towns did in game one, Smith sees the Nuggets roster as problematic when considering what they are dealing with. Jamal Murray isn’t 100% for this series, and they are without a veteran like Jeff Green to help fill gaps.

A defender like that could be big for Denver, and Smith suggests that a presence in that ilk would have saved Kentavious Caldwell Pope from the embarrassment that Edwards displayed against him.

Related: Nikola Jokic Already Sounds Exhausted by Timberwolves’ Defense, Depth

Smith also notes that Murray isn’t a defender capable of handling Edwards, and that’s what makes the Minnesota star such a difficult matchup. While he’s not a traditional point guard, he works with the ball exceptionally well, and his combination of size and quickness present matchup problems for the opposition.

Throwing in a slight jab at Aaron Gordon, Smith said “I don’t think Gordon wants that smoke on a night in and night out basis” after Edwards crossed him up in game one.

Anthony Edwards the Timberwolves Closer

It’s hard to overstate just how good Anthony Edwards has been throughout the playoffs this year, but he’s turned it up a notch when the game is on the line. In the 4th quarter alone he has averaged 10.8 points to lead the league.

His 69% field goal percentage in the quarter leads the NBA and his 57% three point rate leads the NBA as well. Going 14-of-14 at the charity stripe, he hasn’t missed in the final quarter either.

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For a player that is as dominant as Ant Man has been for the Timberwolves, there doesn’t appear to be any stage to great for him. That’s an incredible reality at any age, but considering he is just 22 years old and is making his presence felt like this, the league has been put on notice.

There aren’t a ton of times that national voices like Stephen A. Smith are going to be all over a Minnesota team, but it’s become way too hard to ignore just how good this Timberwolves squad looks.

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