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Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid help Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals

DENVER – After being eliminated in the first round at the hands of the Nuggets last season, the Timberwolves wondered what the series might have looked like if they had had two key players – Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid – available.

McDaniels had punched his ticket out of the playoffs when he broke his hand swinging against a hard wall in the tunnel near the Wolves bench in the regular season finale, while Reid had a broken wrist suffered late in the season that caused him out of postseason action.

The Wolves finally got an answer to that question in their second-round win over Denver, which sent them to the Western Conference finals, which begin Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks at Target Center.

McDaniels tied Karl-Anthony Towns with a team-high 23 points in Game 7. That followed his 21-point performance in Game 6. It was the first time in his career, regular season or postseason, that McDaniels had 20 or more points in Game 7. consecutive games.

“We have so many versatile players that can get 20 in every game,” McDaniels said. “Next game it might be Naz or Nickeil (Alexander-Walker) or KAT or whoever. Just do what you can to win it, even if it’s not your game.”

McDaniels spent a lot of time guarding Jamal Murray in the series, but he also defended Michael Porter Jr. more so as the series progressed and Anthony Edwards took over some of Murray’s duties. Porter did not score more than eight points in Games 4 through 7.

As he concluded his post-game comments on Sunday, Edwards had one more thing to say before leaving Denver: a shoutout to McDaniels.

“Jaden McDaniels,” Edwards said. “Jaden McDaniels was the MVP of the last two series. Once again he did it again. Jaden McDaniels.”

And with that, Edwards got up from the podium and headed to the team bus. Earlier in the press conference, Edwards and Towns also made special mention of Reid’s performance, as Reid clinched the series with standout fourth quarters in Games 1 and 7.

Reid had eight of his 11 points in the fourth, and for good measure added two big blocks on Nikola Jokic.

“Effort, effort, effort,” Reid said of the blocks. “As a sixth man, I’m just trying to make an effort, play to win the game, whether it’s rebounds, steals, shot blocking, scoring, whatever the case may be. My offense really hasn’t gotten into the postseason , but I’m just trying to find other ways to stay in the game.”

Reid was emotional and frustrated on the bench earlier in the game, but he worked through that to perform in the fourth.

Edwards looked at a stat sheet in front of him and saw that Reid was a minus-5 for the game. This caused him to declare that the plus-minus statistic is “garbage.”

“Naz came in, he played great defense against Jokic, got a couple offensive rebounds, hit a big shot, made a big dunk, got a couple steals. He played hard, man. We tell him all the time, ‘Stay with stay there.’ And he stuck with it tonight, and it certainly showed.”

Added Towns: “Anyone who doubted he was a Sixth Man of the Year, the silence will be louder.”

McDaniels and Reid, who are also good friends, were quiet in the playoffs a season ago. This time they made some noise.