The Denver Nuggets looked to get back to winning after dropping game one against the Minnesota Timberwolves and had an extra boost when it was announced that Rudy Gobert would miss the game to attend the birth of his child. Despite the Wolves being shorthanded they looked anything but. Minnesota played suffocating defense all night and got big performances from Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. That was more than enough to offset anything the Nuggets got from any of their players. The Wolves win going away and put Denver on life support in the series.

With Gobert out the Nuggets made an effort early to get the ball inside which brought some success but a pair of Nikola Jokic turnovers kept Minnesota in front. Denver’s defense was solid to start the game as well and kept it tight. Jokic was making a concerted effort to get KAT into foul trouble but the refs were letting them play. Minnesota attacked the basket while Denver settled for outside shots which prevented the Nuggets from gaining back the lead. Aaron Gordon was having a big quarter though and keeping Denver in it. Unfortunately, the Nuggets sloppy play was back in force with four turnovers and the refs refused to call anything for either team. Minnesota was able to push their lead up a little more with a 10-3 run and ended the first leading 28-20.

Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. started the second quarter on the bench and Jamal Murray was completely ineffective against Minnesota’s defense which left the Nuggets unable to score. The Timberwolves lead doubled to sixteen and Malone took a timeout to get Jokic back in the game but the Wolves had found their range from three. It ended up being a 21-3 run for Minnesota. To make matters worse the Nuggets started committing fouls and got Minnesota into the bonus with over five minutes to play. After that Edwards started to get his game going by attacking the basket and before you knew it the lead was up above twenty. Denver continued to look terrible, they were up to nine turnovers in the first half with two minutes to go. They managed to get two more turnovers before the end of the half and left a disastrous second quarter trailing 61-35.

The second half started with the Wolves attacking the basket and the Nuggets shooting jumpers but Minnesota was a little more careless with the ball than they were in the first half. It didn’t matter much with the Nuggets still unable to make any shots. The lead pushed up past thirty and Malone took a timeout with his team looking completely cooked. Naz Reid checked in and knocked down some threes while Denver started playing for pride. They managed to force Micah Nori/Chris Finch to call their first timeout of the game (not a typo) at about the halfway point of the third. Minnesota’s offense cooled off a bit down the stretch of the quarter and the Nuggets put together a little run but blew an opportunity to truly make some headway and give themselves a chance. They still trailed 82-60 after three.

To open the fourth the Wolves were still cold on offense but the Nuggets couldn’t string together shots. To their credit, Denver’s bench unit wasn’t giving up and played with good energy, particularly Justin Holiday, which worked Minnesota’s lead back below twenty. You could tell Minnesota’s focus and energy was starting to dwindle with the massive lead. Unfortunately, to add injury to insult on Denver’s side, Reggie Jackson got hurt and headed back to the locker room unable to put any weight on his left leg. The team called it left calf tightness. Towns and Edwards started to hit a couple threes which prevented any chance of a miracle comeback with Denver still trailing by twenty plus at the six minute mark of the quarter. In a microcosm of the night and the series, at one point the Nuggets got a turnover and tried to run out the break but Gordon turned the ball over attempting a between the legs pass to Porter. The Nuggets fans headed to the exits, Malone emptied the bench and the game ended to chants of “Wolves in four” and MVP for Edwards. Terrible performance from Denver as they lose 106-80.

Best matchup: Minnesota’s D vs everyone

May 6, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Naz Reid (11) blocks the shot of Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) in the second quarter during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Give the Timberwolves credit, they put the absolute clamps on the Nuggets without the presumptive Defensive Player of the Year on the court. The refs made it clear early on they weren’t going to call much and while Denver let that get in their heads, Minnesota just upped their aggressiveness and got in the Nuggets chili on every possession. That resulted in the lowest scoring output of Denver’s season and a crushing defeat. Kudos to Minny, they were by far the more aggressive team and when you are bringing the length to the court that they do, that’s all you need for an easy victory tonight.

The Nuggets stars let them down

Jokic and Murray were terrible tonight, there’s no other way to put it. Jokic looked completely disinterested in trying to score and had another night of way too many turnovers that were a result of careless play. Murray completely embarrassed himself by letting the refs get under his skin and lost his composure. When you are complaining to the tv announcers and throwing heat packs on the court during a live game you’ve lost the battle. It’s so frustrating to watch Denver’s two best players lose the mental battle so poorly. At some point enough is enough. Stop chucking three pointers, stop bitching about every bit of contact you get in the lane, stop ignoring your box out assignments, stop trying to take on two guys at once and dribbling out the shot clock at the three point line, stop throwing behind the back passes in traffic…just play some damn fundamental basketball. Jokic said losing doesn’t motivate him, I wonder if getting embarrassed on your home court and getting booed into the locker room motivates him.

Reap what you sow

Calvin Booth talked ad-nauseam at the beginning of the season that the Nuggets weren’t making repeating their biggest priority in the offseason. Malone repeated time and again down the stretch how health was more important than seeding whenever the Nuggets put up a lackluster effort. Well, now you drew your toughest matchup in the second round and your starters (ad backup point guard) are hurt anyways with a bench that’s been completely inept outside of maybe five minutes. The Nuggets have no one but themselves to blame for the debacle they find themselves in.