Naz Reid’s fourth quarter helps Wolves beat Nuggets

DENVER — Naz Reid felt like the Timberwolves’ first-round series against Phoenix wasn’t going to be his time to shine.

The game called for the Wolves to play more perimeter defense than against most teams, given the Suns’ scoring with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Reid was even joking with his teammates after completing the sweep last weekend that he didn’t do anything in that series.

But that can’t be the case if the Wolves want to advance against a bigger, sturdier opponent in Denver. Reid knows he has to live up to his Sixth Man of the Year status if the Wolves want to move on.

“Every series is different. I think it was maybe more of a guard series, because of the way they played,” Reid said. “…I feel like my presence hasn’t been felt in this Phoenix series. I feel like I need to do more.”

Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference semifinal series on Saturday night started shaky for Reid – in the first half, he had no points and two turnovers and was the worst of the team at minus-17 – but Reid turned things around in a major way in the second. halftime with 16 points, including 14 in a furious fourth quarter that allowed the Wolves to take the lead.

For Anthony Edwards, Reid’s performance represented an important step in Reid’s maturity. There might have been times when Reid would have gotten depressed, but he didn’t do that on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of growth in Naz, man,” Edwards said. “He didn’t leave the game. He didn’t worry about his successes or failures, he just kept playing.”

That’s what Reid said about his mentality: Just try to stay as cool as possible and the game will come back. He had a few buckets early in the fourth, but the game seemed to open up for him when he scored a three-pointer at the 5 minute, 56 second mark.

Reid caught a grenade or pass near the end of the shot clock from Edwards, and he had no choice but to take a quick shot before time expired.

He smiled after the game, saying he couldn’t remember the last time he hit a three in a game.

“I just did it. I guess I had a good touch,” Reid said.

He responded with a monster dunk on the next possession, in which he one-handed a rebound and threw it away. Then he made a layup and three more to put the Wolves ahead 94-88 with 4:20 left.

“I’ve had a lot of success all year, but I don’t want it to go to waste,” Reid said.

Reid and the rest of the bench players were challenged by coach Chris Finch at halftime after Reid, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kyle Anderson were a combined 2-for-8 with six turnovers.

“We didn’t play with confidence, we played the right style of basketball all year,” Reid said. “This challenge helped us all. We all responded well to this challenge.”

Reid did not play in last season’s playoffs against the Nuggets due to a season-ending wrist injury. Two years ago, he didn’t play much in the playoffs against Memphis as he struggled with personal issues, including the loss of his mentor, Rudy Roundtree. Before these playoffs, Reid was talking about how this would be his first real playoff experience, and he felt comfortable after the game knowing that he could look back on Saturday as a playoff victory in which he had a major impact. As if a weight had been lifted from the shoulders of the 6-9 center.

“I never gave up. I fight, I fight,” Reid said. “…Going undrafted gave me this advantage that I have now. I have my teammates. They kept me up all the time.”

That included Wolves center Rudy Gobert, who said he used expletive-laden language to get Reid through his first half. He responded in a big way.

“Seize the moment,” Gobert said. “Enjoy the moment and I promise you, you’re going to make some plays. And he did.”

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