Ignore the misguided and ill-informed hand-wringing about Rudy Gobert's isolation defense on the perimeter and overall impact in the Western Conference Finals. It's not Luka Doncic's instant-classic game-winning triple over the outstretched arms of the four-time Defensive Player of the Year nor defense at all that has the Minnesota Timberwolves in an 0-2 hole against the Dallas Mavericks as the series shifts to American Airlines Center.

The other side of the ball has been the Timberwolves' undoing so far, a dynamic Anthony Edwards plans on changing in Sunday's absolutely pivotal Game 3. How? By taking a far more aggressive approach to seeking out his own offense.

“Y'all gonna see tonight. It's gonna be a lot of shots,” he told reporters during shootaround, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “I'm gonna be super aggressive. I mean, I haven't took more than 16 shots in each game, so I'm gonna be ultra-aggressive coming out, for sure.”

What's behind Anthony Edwards' recent struggles?

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) reacts in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks during game two of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball's undisputed darling of the postseason, Edwards has struggled recently after a scintillating start. He averaged 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.6 steals on red-hot 67.1% true shooting over the first six games of the Timberwolves' playoff run, staking an eye-opening claim as the best two-way player in basketball while dominating the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets. The 22-year-old hasn't reached those epic heights of late, though, slowed by big, physical defenses of the Nuggets and Mavericks that have increasingly sold out out to stop him.

Edwards is averaging 20.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and seven assists on 33.7% shooting overall and 32.6% from three-point range across Minnesota's last five games. Those labors have been especially evident in the Western Conference Finals, as his peerless blend of explosiveness, strength and shot-making prowess has been starkly absent against Dallas.

Making a clear and concerted effort to make the right play for his team rather than force the issue himself, Edwards has taken just 14 shots inside the arc versus the Mavs, whose primary goal to keep him out of the paint and make him see bodies with constant gap help and ever-looming rim-protection has been arguably the defining aspect of the Western Conference Finals so far. Derrick Jones Jr., especially, also deserves immense credit for hounding Edwards at the point of attack, ensuring he's never too comfortable.

Dallas' pointed defensive approach and Minnesota's frequent lack of all-court spacing may not be the only reasons Edwards has come back to earth after previously looking like the best player on the planet, though. Remember the hard fall he took early in the second half of Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals? As noted by Twitter user @JJETSFAN, Edwards just hasn't been the same player since landing hard on his lower back a week-and-a-half ago.

There's no denying that Edwards hasn't been himself athletically over the last three games, a reality most easily conveyed by drastic differences in his effectiveness while penetrating. Through Game 6 against Denver, he shot a scorching 60.6% on 14.3 drives per game, according to NBA.com/stats. While he's creased the paint at only a slightly lower rate over the last three games, Edwards is just 2-of-13 on drives, good for hideous 15.4% shooting.

The elite-level rim-protection of Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford definitely have something to do with that. Jones' on-ball pressure and the Mavs' ultra-connected team defense is certainly contributing to Edwards' issues, too. Don't overlook the effect that serving as the Timberwolves' primary defender of Kyrie Irving is having on Edwards offensively, either.

Given the oddly passive and much less than electric state of his game lately, though, the potentially lingering impact of Edwards' fall can't be discounted. No one is at 100 percent health this deep in the postseason, but Edwards—like Doncic, fighting through a series of nagging maladies–could also be dealing with a more specific injury.

Game 3 will be extremely telling in that regard. If his extra offensive aggression is rooted mostly in pull-up twos and three-pointers, it will be further confirmation that Edwards just isn't himself physically. Otherwise, don't be surprised when Edwards leads Minnesota to a Game 3 road victory with the type of singular athletic force of which only he is capable, giving his team much more than a puncher's chance to win the West despite losing its first two games to Dallas.