The show goes on! After the Denver Nuggets summarily dispatched the Los Angeles Lakers in five game and the Minnesota Timberwolves dealt with the Phoenix Suns in even quicker fashion, the two teams are headed on a collision course in the second round. With Denver boasting the best player in the world in Nikola Jokic and the player who elevates his game the most in the playoffs in Jamal Murray, and with the Wolves flaunting the top defense in the league anchored by future hall of famer Rudy Gobert while unleashing the league’s next superstar in Anthony Edwards we have what many believe to be a matchup of the two best teams in the West. As division rivals there’s plenty of familiarity between the teams and there’s the added factor that Minnesota’s president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly, held the same title previously with Denver and was the driving factor behind building their championship roster. Everything points to this being a fantastic series.

The Essentials

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

When: 5:00 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. By a massive package of white Hanes t-shirts, scribble Road2Gold on them with sharpie and claim to be the shirt delivery guy. 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: Jaden McDaniels vs Jamal Murray

Nov 1, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) dribbles the ball while Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) defends during the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Jaden McDaniels plays as a forward, the Wolves will look often for him to take on the task of defending Murray. That is the biggest difference in this series vs last year when Denver ended the Wolves season in five games while McDaniels sat out with a broken hand. Murray has still found ways to have success this season when he’s played against Minnesota and putting McDaniels as his primary defender leaves the Wolves with a gap in coverage on Michael Porter Jr. They can also bring Nickeil Alexander-Walker off the bench but it’s important to remember that NAW had the primary task of defending Murray last year and was wholly ineffective. If McDaniels puts the clamps on Murray it will be up to Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to put the pressure on Minnesota’s less accomplished perimeter defenders.

The thing to remember: it’s not just McDaniels thats back

Another piece that was missing from the Wolves roster last season is Naz Reid who also was injured for the entirety of Denver and Minnesota’s previous playoff series. Reid recently was awarded the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award and filled in admirably in Minnesota’s starting lineup while Karl-Anthony Towns was out. He is a superb frontcourt scorer with the ability to stretch the floor out to the three point line. The Nuggets have struggled throughout the season with consistency in their bench bigs and have once again eliminated the role of backup big altogether in the playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see how they approach Reid. I expect to see Aaron Gordon handle him for most of the minutes but won’t be surprised to see Peyton Watson get a crack as well. If Reid gets going we might also see some minutes from DeAndre Jordan or even Zeke Nnaji to try to hold him at bay.

The thing to bet: Nikola Jokic over 1.5 threes (+120)

Jokic averaged more than three three point attempts during the Lakers series and that average would be even higher if you take out game 3 when he shot just one from beyond the arc. With Gobert patrolling the paint for the Wolves I expect Denver to rely on their outside shot more in general, but I also anticipate Jokic intentionally playing more on the outside to try to draw Gobert out of the lane. Rudy is going to want to not do that so I expect more than one moment of indecision from him, leaving Jokic to take an open shot (or five) from outside.