'We'll be back': Wolves hungry for more after loss

MINNEAPOLIS — The Dallas Mavericks might have put an abrupt stop to the best Minnesota Timberwolves’ postseason run in decades on Thursday, dominating Game 5 to clinch the Western Conference crown and a berth in the NBA Finals, but it didn’t dampen Anthony Edwards’ outlook on the future one bit.

“We’ll be back next year,” Edwards said after totaling 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting, 9 rebounds and 6 assists in a 124-103 closeout loss.

Edwards, a former No. 1 pick, capped off his fourth season in the league with a second-team All-NBA nod and three 40-point playoff games as the Wolves reached the Western Conference finals for the first time since Kevin Garnett led them there in 2004.

All at the ripe, old age of 22.

After sweeping the Phoenix Suns in the first round and coming back from 20 points down in the second half of Game 7 of the conference semifinals to topple the defending champion Denver Nuggets, the Mavs proved too much for Minnesota.

“It’s a lot of our guys’ first time being in this light, especially me. It’s my first time,” Edwards said. “But we’ll be ready, man. We’ll be all right. First time. Took a loss. Congratulations to the Mavericks. But we’ll be back. We’ll be all right.”

The No. 3-seeded Wolves had home court advantage over the No. 5-seeded Mavs but fell down 3-0 to start the series, including blowing an 18-point lead at the Target Center in Game 2 when the eventual unanimous series MVP, Luka Doncic, hit a go-ahead 3 in the final seconds.

Minnesota’s vaunted defense, featuring four-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, looked vulnerable at times against the two-pronged attack of Doncic and Kyrie Irving. And the Wolves’ offense was even less reliable, with Karl-Anthony Towns struggling through the first three losses before rallying to average 26.5 points on 54.5% shooting and 8.5 rebounds in Games 4 and 5.

Towns didn’t pick up any fouls in Game 5 after fouling out of Game 4 — the fourth time during Minnesota’s playoff run he was whistled for five fouls or more — but the effort went for naught, as Dallas led by 29 at the half and as many as 36 at one point.

For Towns, the Wolves’ No. 1 pick in 2015 and longest-tenured player on the roster, the team’s playoff performance only strengthened his resolve to be a part of the team that delivers Minnesota its first NBA championship some day.

“I’ve been here nine years and I would love for the tenure to keep going,” Towns said.

The 28-year-old big man, who has four years remaining on his contract with the Wolves (including a player option for the 2027-28 season), was asked to expand on his remarks.

“I’m confident I’ll be able to be here with my brothers and continue what I love to do here at home,” Towns said. “So that’s the plan. Nothing’s changed on my side. I love this city. I love this organization. I love this city. It’s given me my life, me and my family.”

Towns was asked if the Wolves as currently constructed — with one key rotation player in Kyle Anderson becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer — have shown enough to convince the franchise’s potential new owners to keep the team together. (Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore are currently in a legal battle with Glen Taylor over possession of the team.)

“That’s not for me to worry about,” Towns said. “My job is to go out there every day and do something this summer in the offseason and continue to take steps forward in my game and my mentality not only as a player but as a person, too.”

Towns added: “Excited to see next season when I walk in for training camp for our first interviews and stuff to not only see the growth for me as a player that I’ll get to showcase throughout the season, but the growth of me as a man. I can’t speak on [new ownership]. I can’t control that.”

Wolves coach Chris Finch said his biggest takeaway from how his team stalled out in the conference finals was the collective awareness and commitment it will take to continue to level up as the postseason progresses in the future.

Finch, 54, who coached in the G League and then was an NBA assistant for years before getting his shot as the head coach of the Wolves in the middle of Edwards’ rookie season, acknowledged that chances like Minnesota had this spring can be fleeting.

Then again, even he had to share some of Edwards’ unbridled optimism about what’s in store for his team.

“We’re very disappointed. When I look back all summer long, there’s going to be a lot of regrets about the early parts of this series,” Finch said. “But it’s been a great year. I’m very proud of the guys. The way the city has gotten behind the team, it’s been special. We’ve always said from the time we got here we want to put out a team that people are proud to root for and play the right way. We feel like we do that.

“Now we’ve just got to keep fine tuning everything.”

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