The Denver Nuggets are in an unusual position for the first time in the past two years. They find themselves trailing in a playoff series. After a back-and-forth first half, the Minnesota Timberwolves behind the play of Anthony Edwards seized control of game one and won out right down the stretch. Now the Nuggets will look to even the series before they head to Minnesota for game three in what has become a crucial victory for them. Denver will need to get big contributions from Nikola Jokić, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray if they want to even the series. Perhaps more importantly, the Nuggets will have to find a way to slow down Minnesota’s offensive attack outside of Edwards. Karl-Anthony Towns, Mike Connelly and Naz Reid did damage in the second half that ultimately spelled doom for the Nuggets in game one. It will take everything they’ve got, but this is a must win.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (0-1) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (1-0)

When: 8:00 PM MDT

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. TNT. League Pass for non-Nuggets market viewers. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival blog: Canis Hoopus

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Wolves Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Mike Conley Nuggets
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Anthony Edwards Wolves
SF Michael Porter Jr. Jaden McDaniels Even
PF Aaron Gordon Karl-Anthony Towns Even
C Nikola Jokic Rudy Gobert Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Justin Holiday Naz Reid, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Monte Morris, Kyle Anderson Wolves

Injury report: Jamal Murray – questionable (calf), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee).

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: bench vs bench

May 4, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) collides into Denver Nuggets forward Peyton Watson (8) in the second quarter during game one of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Despite everything that Edwards did, Reid may have been the biggest factor in Minnesota making their push in the second half. He was able to get to the hoop when needed, he could stretch the floor by knocking down three pointers and ended up with 16 points all in the second half. Meanwhile, the Nuggets bench continues to be a struggle. Reggie Jackson had his moments as did Christian Braun but Peyton Watson was a complete no-show and Justin Holiday continues to struggle with his outside shot. If the Nuggets are going to win this series they have to find some sort of production off of their bench. Unfortunately, there’s little time to get it figured out. The Nuggets do have Julian Strother available and perhaps he could inject some offense & shooting into their bench group. However, he is still a rookie and has played sparingly for most of the season. I’m not sure that placing him into these high stakes games is the best way to go. Still, the Nuggets need to figure this out if they have any chance of winning the series or even this game tonight.

The thing to remember: no time to feel sorry for yourself 

Teams come back from down 1-0 all the time, including when it’s the home team who loses the first game. That being said, coming back from two games to nothing after losing both games on your home court is a nigh impossible task. The Nuggets need to come out of the gate with focus. Everybody in the crowd will know that this is a must win game and I have no doubt that the crowd will be ready to do their part but if we start another game with everybody standing for over two minutes, waiting for the Nuggets to hit their first basket, it’s going to take the air out of the arena just like it did in game one. Momentum is the key for the Nuggets winning this game against the Timberwolves. Minnesota wants to set their defense and be able to pick the matchups that work best for them. If the Nuggets can get out on the run and make baskets in transition or even just force Minnesota to play fast and not get a chance to set their defense exactly the way they want then Denver will come away with a victory. That starts with getting off to a good start and keeping your crowd engaged.

The thing to bet: Aaron Gordon over 6.5 rebounds (-105)

I expect the Nuggets to come out with the requisite intensity needed for the situation they’re in and that should mean focus, energy and doing the little things. AG has shown over the course of these playoffs that he can be an extremely good rebounder when the Nuggets need him to be. I think tonight is one of those nights were AG is energetic and looking to crash boards at every opportunity. Seven rebounds doesn’t feel like a ton to ask for, particularly given the nearly even odds.