The Denver Nuggets caught a break with a road game against an injured and tired Minnesota Timberwolves team. Despite the challenges, Minnesota proved they were up to the task of challenging the champs on their homecourt and made Denver go all the way to the wire to get a victory. Nikola Jokic had a monstrous first half and Michael Porter Jr. played the role of fourth quarter hero as both players had big nights scoring. On Minnesota’s side Anthony Edwards was every bit of the superstar he’s billed to be. The Nuggets got a big lead in the first half before squandering it entirely and then riding Porter to a come from behind victory in the fourth. Not the prettiest of wins but a win nonetheless. Denver escapes Minnesota 115-112.

Denver’s offense wasn’t stellar out of the gate but their defense was on point and that let them grab the early lead. The stars got into the swing of things after that with Jokic and Edwards doing the majority of the scoring. Aaron Gordon did some work in the paint with the quarter about half over but Edwards continued to be a menace, grabbing offensive rebounds and finishing above the rim. There wasn’t much help for Edwards though and the Nuggets were relentless in growing their lead. With four minutes left they were up double digits. Denver couldn’t hold it though, they committed some silly turnovers and Edwards quickly cut into their lead. After a Michael Malone timeout Denver refocused but Minnesota wasn’t letting it get out of hand. Jokic led the close to the quarter with Minnesota struggling to handle his size sans Rudy Gobert but too many small mistakes (offensive rebounds were once again becoming an issue) didn’t let Denver take complete control of the game. They led 35-28 after the first.

With Jokic on the bench the Wolves rested Luka Garza to start the second which allowed Gordon get back to some bully ball to go with the usual Jamal Murray offensive onslaught when he’s staggering with the bench. Denver started to struggle as the Jokicless minutes extended though. Jaden McDaniels was driving the lane effectively to get something going for Minnesota. Once again little mistakes, this time turnovers, kept the Nuggets from building a large lead. Jokic got back in the game and went back to work. With four and a half minutes to go in the quarter the lead was back up to a dozen. Denver’s starting unit fully checked in after that and it was just too much for the short-handed Wolves to keep up with. Edwards did what he could but the Nuggets lead was growing in the closing minutes of the half. It was high level, high intensity basketball to finish. Edwards was great but Jokic was cooking with absolute gas. After two quarters Denver was up 70-55.

The Nuggets were sluggish to start the second half. They immediately gave up a 12-5 run to the Wolves and forced Malone to take an early timeout. Minnesota continued to eat away at Denver’s lead out of the TO. It was down to a single possession with just over seven minutes to go. The Nuggets inexplicably refused to feed the ball to Jokic despite his clear size advantage that lead to a twenty-two point first half. They got the lead back to five and then it stalled out there on both sides with the quarter passing the halfway point. Denver continued to be completely cold from the floor. Edwards got back to scoring and after a eurostep he pulled the Wolves within one. They quickly took the lead while the Nuggets looked completely inept on offense. The Wolves just swarmed Jokic anytime he got the ball and the four players around him could do nothing whatsoever when he passed out of the double. They finally got control of themselves in the last minute of the quarter and went on a 5-0 run to close it which gave them back the lead. Heading into the fourth quarter the Nuggets were up 87-84.

Denver clung to the three point lead early in the fourth as the game was becoming an all out grind and the refs allowed the game to be very physical. Minnesota eventually worked their way back to getting the lead while the Nuggets bench stalled out completely on offense. Jokic and Porter came back in with about seven minutes to go and the Nuggets trailing by four. Porter immediately went on a 7-0 run by himself to put Denver back ahead by three and force a Timberwolves timeout. MPJ’s run finally injected life back in the Nuggets and they started to keep a few baskets in front of the Timberwolves until McDaniels hit a three and got a free throw (he missed) to pull it back within three. Denver came right back and started knocking down threes. After Jokic buried one it was an eight point lead with three minutes to go. Minnesota put together one last run in the final two minutes and continued to make the Nuggets work for the victory. The Wolves hit about four ridiculous three pointers in the final minute to give themselves a chance via the free throw game but Edwards couldn’t get the potential game tying shot to go at the buzzer. Denver survives 115-112.

Best matchup: star vs star

Mar 19, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) goes to the basket against the Denver Nuggets in the third quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Edwards really gave Denver the business for three of four quarters tonight. He led the Wolves on their comeback efforts in the third quarter after being basically their only offense in the first half. The one ding in his game tonight was the fourth quarter though. He failed to hit a shot in the final period and had a wide open shot to tie the game at the buzzer before drawing nothing but iron. Still, the guy is an absolute monster. In future contests I think Denver will need to put Gordon on Edwards every possession, anyone else is too slow or too weak. Meanwhile the Wolves obviously stand very little chance of stopping Jokic when Gobert, Naz Reid and Karl-Anthony Towns are all out and Joker ended up with a monster double double, recording thirty-five points and sixteen rebounds. He disappeared a bit in the third quarter which let Minnesota get back in the game and that was problematic but other than that Joker was fantastic and once again showed when push comes to shove he’s going to exert his will and dominate the game.

You take it but yeesh

I don’t think too many Nuggets fans are feeling great about this win. The wolves were down three major pieces and on the second night of a tough travel back to back making the Nuggets solid favorites to win this game. Denver ended up needing Edwards missing an open three to escape with a win. It’s not necessarily the fact that it was a close game that’s even the most concerning, but rather that Denver once again had a game in the bag against an opponent they should beat and nearly doomed themselves with an absolute dumpster fire of a quarter. There’s been too much of that lately and while the Nuggets continue to be able to rely on their ability to ramp it up in the fourth quarter and close out games it will bite them in the ass against quality teams like it did against the Dallas Mavericks the other night and almost did again tonight.

KCP cashes in on our thing to bet

If you took the thing to bet (over 1.5 KCP threes) then at least if your frustrated with the ugly win you can be happy with the handsome cash. Ironically, Pope’s threes were not a result of swinging the ball to the open shooter out of double teams like I had predicted, but rather he knocked down a pair of transition threes. Cash is cash though and we don’t care how we get it.