- Who: #8 Minnesota Timberwolves (0-1) at #1 Denver Nuggets (1-0)
- When: 9:00 PM CT
- Where: Ball Arena (Denver, CO)
- Local TV: Bally Sports North (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Lea B. Olsen)
- National TV: TNT (Spero Dedes, Greg Hill and Stephanie Ready)
- Radio: 102.9 FM The Wolf
- Line: Wolves +8 | Total: 222 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
- Rudy Gobert — Back Spasms
- Jaylen Nowell — Left Knee Tendinopathy
- Jaden McDaniels — Right Hand Fracture
- Naz Reid — Left Scaphoid Fracture
- Nikola Jokić — Right Wrist; Sprain
What To Watch For
The Rollercoaster Continues On
I’ll tell you what, cheering for this team is not for the faint of heart. The peaks and valleys that this Minnesota Timberwolves team is prone to is something else. You truly never know what you’re going to get from this team from quarter-to-quarter, much less game-to-game. The only consistent thing about this team is that it’s inconsistent.
We hit a valley in Game 1 of this series, no doubt. The Denver Nuggets embarrassed Minnesota in a 109-80 pummeling that could suggest this could be a total walk-over for Denver. It’s certainly possible that that could be the case. It’s very plausible that this iteration of the Timberwolves just doesn’t fit, regardless of how much talent they have.
Anyone who has followed this team all year knows that, when their backs are against the wall, they seem to find an extra gear. They certainly have an affinity for putting themselves in situations where their backs are against the wall, but they generally respond well in those moments. Hopefully, tonight will be no different, and the team on the floor tonight will be unrecognizable from the one we saw on Sunday evening.
Stars Must Shine
There are tactical ways the Wolves can adjust both offensively and defensively, but as Seth Partnow of The Athletic (and formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks) frequently says, oftentimes the best adjustment is simply to play better. Minnesota has two Supermax big men and a young All-Star on the wing who will command a max-contract extension of his own this summer. In Game 1, Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Anthony Edwards gave Minnesota 37 combined points on 35 shots. They had seven assists to six turnovers. The Wolves just need more from their best players if they want to have any hope of making this an interesting series.
The Wolves need Rudy to play with real force on both ends of the floor. He was a total afterthought on Sunday night in pretty much every way. Minnesota needs to do a better job finding him on offense, but it is on Gobert to be dominant defensively. I’d guess he gets more one-on-one responsibility with Nikola Jokić tonight, and he must hold his own for the Wolves to have a chance.
When it comes to Ant and KAT, the Wolves just need them to be the star offensive players that they are. Neither one looked like themselves on Sunday night. Towns was woefully inefficient by his standards, while Edwards was more-or-less complacent, letting the game come to him. That’s not going to get it done when you’re trying to upset the top-seeded Denver Nuggets.
Tighten the Math Gap
We’re leaning into the oversimplified narratives tonight. The “make-or-miss-league” thing might get overplayed a bit, but when you’re trying to keep up with a team like Denver that can score at will, you have absolutely no chance if you can’t keep pace. The Wolves were 11-for-36 on threes in Game 1. That’s not going to cut it. Towns and Edwards were a combined 2-for-11 from three, but Taurean Prince going 0-for-3 didn’t help either.
The Wolves simply have to generate and make enough threes to not entirely lose the math game. If they use their size and skill properly, they can still own the paint in this series, but either way they will need to hit some threes in order to keep pace with a Nuggets squad that makes 38% of their looks from downtown. They gave up 16 3PM on Sunday night, which is just too many if you’re also going to have to deal with Joker in the paint. Cutting off Denver’s three-point opportunities by letting Gobert try to deal with the two-time MVP on his own while everyone else stays attached to shooters may be their best shot of evening up the math a bit.