Monday night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks left a bitter taste in the mouths of Minnesota Timberwolves fans, as the Wolves squandered a 21-lead in the second half. The first half felt too good to be true, as Anthony Edwards exploded for 20 points while Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid and Shake Milton all also scored in double figures. That was about the end of the scoring for the night (for Minnesota, at least). Dejounte Murray went nuclear in the third, scoring 21 points and making all eight of his shot attempts. The Wolves weren’t able to counter the Hawks’ punches, and they ultimately were left in the dirt.
- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves vs Denver Nuggets
- When: 7:00 PM CT
- Where: Target Center
- TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: Wolves Radio App, KFAN FM 100.3
- Line: Timberwolves +2, Total: 220 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
Updated as of 3:15 PM Wednesday
- Jaden McDaniels (left calf strain)
- Shake Milton (left foot soreness)
- Jaylen Clark (right achilles tendon rupture rehab)
- Leonard Miller (G League Assignment)
- Wendell Moore Jr. (G League Assignment)
- Vlatko Cancar (left knee surgery)
What to Watch For
The Timberwolves’ Rotation
Head Coach Chris Finch kept his rotation tight against the Hawks, playing nine guys while the game was still winnable. Jordan McLaughlin and Troy Brown Jr. were the two players who could’ve been inserted, but Brown didn’t play at all and McLaughlin saw just over one minute of action at the very end of the game. It doesn’t come as a surprise that those two are on the outside of the rotation looking in, but on a night the offense went cold it could be argued one — or both — of those two could’ve injected some juice.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker posted an offensive rating of 80 on Monday night, not being able to get in a rhythm on that end of the floor. Perhaps in an effort to keep up with Atlanta’s potently-offensive guards, Finch maybe stuck with Alexander-Walker to curb their effect.
After a dismal offensive second half against the Hawks, all eyes will be on how Finch does — or doesn’t — find a way to inject some life into the offense on Wednesday against Denver.
Minnesota’s Front-court Versus Nikola Jokic
Flashbacks of last season’s playoff matchup arise while writing this section, but it’s at the core of any meeting with the Nuggets. Nikola Jokic is dominating the league once again, and there’s not really anything anyone can do about it. However, here we are.
Karl-Anthony Towns played relatively well against the back-to-back MVP in the playoffs, but it’s yet to be known how Finch and Co. will deploy their defensive assets at Jokic on Wednesday. Gobert always seems like the simple choice, but Jokic feels too quick for Gobert to defend — in terms of decision making, not necessarily physically — and the Serbian’s ability to draw Gobert away from the rim diminishes his value.
Putting Towns on Jokic allows Gobert to lurk around the rim, which is likely what we’ll see on Wednesday night.
The Timberwolves’ Resiliency
Monday’s loss to the Hawks made fans feel like they were watching the 2022-23 Wolves, a team that lost to the Spurs twice in the first seven games of last season. Whether this team has overcome its immaturity in that respect is unknown, which is concerning.
Winning games you’re supposed to win — whether it’s categorized as “supposed to win” before or during the game — is imperative. Now, it’s easier said than done, and this is the NBA, but Minnesota should’ve beat the Spurs last season and they should’ve beat the Hawks last night. It’s a bug they desperately need to overcome to put themselves in a favorable position this spring.
As for Wednesday’s meeting with the Nuggets, it’s a prime opportunity for the Wolves to play up to their competition. They showed they’re capable of it in last season’s playoff series, and it’s somewhat expected they’ll do it again on Nov. 1.
Jaden McDaniels’ Usage
Seemingly on a minutes restriction against the Hawks as he works back from a calf injury, all eyes will be on Jaden McDaniels on Wednesday. His absence was detrimental to the Wolves last postseason, and now they’ll have a chance to show Denver what that series could’ve looked like had McDaniels been healthy.
He played just 23 minutes on Monday night, and Minnesota will need every minute possible to help defend Jamal Murray and the high-powered Nuggets offense. Although not a full workload, McDaniels was great in his minutes against Atlanta. He made both of his 3-point attempts, pulled down two rebounds and had two assists and one steal.