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Bruce Brown: ‘Our Toughest Series Was Minnesota’

The ex-Denver Nuggets guard discussed his former team’s path to the 2023 NBA Title and why the Timberwolves gave them problems on the Run Your Race podcast with Theo Pinson.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets - Game Five Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Minnesota Timberwolves fans felt some well-earned vindication on Tuesday afternoon that served as the energy boost we all needed to make it through the first day of the lull in the NBA calendar.

Ex-Denver Nuggets guard Bruce Brown joined NBA player Theo Pinson on the Run Your Race podcast to cover a wide variety of topics, but made some eye-opening comments about the Nuggets’ path to the winning the 2023 NBA Finals.

First, Brown high praise for Timberwolves superstar Anthony Edwards.

“Ant was going OD, though. Ant is next up,” Brown said. “I would say, this year, the toughest players to guard was Ant and Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander).”

“Jesus Christ. Ant was cookin’,” Pinson responded.

“Cookin’. And he was doin’ everything, though. All three levels,” Brown said, following up.

Both players also explained they thought Edwards’ potential game-tying shot at the end of Game 5 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs was going down.

Later, the conversation transitioned to talking about the toughest matchup the Nuggets faced over the course of their title run.

“Phoenix was our ‘toughest’ series,” Brown said with finger quotations, making it clear that the comment was about what the nationally common perception is. “But I would say, honestly, our toughest series was Minnesota.”

“Why?” Pinson asked.

“I don’t know. Ant and them. It was something about them,” Brown explained. “They had good players. It was Mike Conley, KAT, Ant. I think that was our toughest series.”

Brown also mentioned that their second round series against the Phoenix Suns was all blowouts one way or another, and that while most of their Western Conference Finals sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers was close, it never really felt like they were in jeopardy of losing — and they never did.

Back in May, following the first and second rounds of the playoffs, I wrote about why I felt better about the Timberwolves’ future as the playoffs played out, largely because of what Brown explained on Pinson’s podcast.

The Timberwolves made life more difficult for Finals MVP Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray than any of the Nuggets’ successive opponents did, and had the depth to contend for 48 minutes in the final four games of the series — all while missing arguably the league’s best perimeter defender in Jaden McDaniels, and one of the elite bench scorers in the second half of the season in Naz Reid, and considering the fact that both Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) and Rudy Gobert (back) were playing nowhere near 100%.

It became abundantly clear in the subsequent series in the Nuggets run that a team incapable of throwing multiple bigs at Jokić has zero chance of slowing him down and, thus, a puncher’s chance at taking down Denver as a whole. Towns doesn’t get enough credit for the defense he played on Jokić, especially in Game 5. KAT in that game helped hold the 2021 and 2022 NBA MVP to 8/29 shooting (27.6%), easily his worst game of an all-time great playoff run, and least efficient shooting performance since October 28, 2019, the third game of the 2019-20 regular season.

Jokić turned in his lowest points (26.2), rebounds (12.4) and assists (9.0) per game, field goal percentage (48.5%), 2-point field goal percentage (48.1%), total plus minus for the series (+17) against Minnesota when compared to his other three playoff opponents.

Jamal Murray may have scored his second-most points per game over a series of the playoffs on his second-most efficient shooting against the Wolves, but his overall impact (+20) was limited in part because most of his scoring came in one-quarter explosions when Murray’s shotmaking finally out-performed the notably impressive defense from Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

Before posting the article, I ran a poll on Twitter asking if Timberwolves fans felt the same way I did as we watched the playoffs unfold.

For the 70.8% of the 1,519 respondents who voted yes, today has to feel pretty good. It also represents a good argument for running things back next season, as the Wolves at full-strength have a legitimate chance to win the title. If Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert all find a way to play at the top of their respective games when the playoffs roll around, with the depth the Timberwolves possess, they project to be a very tough out once again next season.