The Denver Nuggets got destroyed by the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time in this series, losing 115-70 in a game that got out of hand 8 minutes in and never got back on track for Denver. The Nuggets started the game 9-2 but quickly fell apart, with the entire team going cold but Jamal Murray’s icy streak was particularly painful. Denver’s point guard went 1-for-10 in the first half and 4-for-18 for the game for just 10 points to go with 5 assists, and Jokic had 22 points and 9 rebounds but just 2 assists as Denver shot 31% from the floor and looked completely overmatched and poorly disciplined. Anthony Edwards had 37 points for the Timberwolves, Jaden McDaniels added 21 and was a machine both at the rim and from deep, and a returning Mike Conley had 13 points but more importantly served as the floor general Minnesota was badly missing in his Game 5 absence. As a whole the Wolves treated this like the must-win it was for them, while Denver treated it like just another game and got waxed. Game 7 really will be a must-win for both teams, and we’ll see if Denver can muster up the energy and execution necessary to prevail.

Game Recap

Jamal Murray missed his first two layups while Rudy Gobert finished an oop from Towns, then flexed his elbow early as it seemed to bother him the rest of the quarter. Jokic powered in a dunk and Denver fought hard on the glass early as a lot of contact was allowed. MPJ finished another dunk and Jokic hit a running layup while the Nuggets defended hard and forced the ball away from Ant and KAT. Aaron Gordon stuffed another oop attempt to Rudy, MPJ hit a three and took Denver to a 9-2 early lead. Jaden McDaniels buried a three for Minnesota, then Anthony Edwards got a steal and breakaway dunk. Jokic’s 3 rimmed out and Minnesota got several offense rebounds to finally get a putback and tie it at 9. KAT’s ferocious dunk put the Timberwolves ahead, as Denver’s offense suddenly lacked ball movement or effectiveness. Jamal stayed cold from the field while Jokic operated more around the perimeter, and Mike Conley’s push shot made it 15-9 Minnesota. Ant hit a 3, Gobert finished another oop, and Denver couldn’t buy a bucket as Minnesota went on a 20-0 run before Jokic finally hit another paint bucket. Ant answered though, and another turnover forced a Denver timeout down 26-11. Murray got blocked leading to an Minnesota 3 that KCP answered, but Denver didn’t score again in the quarter and went into the second down 31-14.

Kyle Anderson opened the second-quarter scoring with a pair of free throws, but Jokic stayed in the game with Murray and each got layups for Denver. Jokic finished a traditional 3-point play to close to 33-21, Anderson made a couple more free throws as Jokic finally got some rest, and Aaron Gordon buried a 3 right off the bench. Ant made his free throws as well, Naz Reid put back his own miss, and Denver stayed cold from the field with AG and Murray missing some needed looks. Reid’s bucket pushed it to a 19 point lead at 43-24. Edwards hit a three for Minnesota, KAT hit a 2, while Jamal Murray had one of the worst halves of his entire career. AG made free throws and MPJ finished a Nikola assist in the paint and a free throw to cut the deficit to 19, but Conley immediately hit a 3 to stunt any momentum. McDaniels made a tough layup that Jokic answered on the other end, and another bucket from the MVP wasn’t enough as AG’s last second turnover led to a Minnesota bucket and left Denver down 59-40 at the half.


Murray missed the first two shots of the second half for Denver, while Minnesota’s dunkathon continued. Aaron Gordon answered with a dunk of his own, but a McDaniels 3 and an Ant power dunk forced Denver into an early timeout. Anthony Edwards took a hard fall off a standard MPJ foul and took a while getting up but was able to stay in the game. KCP hit a 3, Rudy got what felt like the 30th dunk of the game for Minnesota, and Murray finally made a shot from deep to make it 69-48. The Nuggets just couldn’t get anything going though as KAT made a layup and McDaniels made a 3 to keep that Timberwolves lead stout. Murray and Jokic hit a couple of buckets but it made no difference to the steamroller that was Minnesota, as the Wolves went into the 4th up 86-61.

Malone left his starters in there for the first 2 minutes of the fourth, but the deficit ballooned to 30 behind some Reid free throws, a three-pointer from Ant and another Gobert layup and Malone brought in a full bench at last. The final 10 minutes of the game weren’t any prettier, as Denver scored only 9 total points in the frame and lost by 45, with a final score of 115-70.


Final Thoughts

Jamal Murray helped shoot Denver out of the game early, but it was a symptom not the disease. Going 1-for-10 in a half is an astonishingly poor choice, but the Nuggets followed his lead by going 4-for-21 from deep and refusing to attack the rim and force the action. Gobert was lurking with high-activity all game, but the Nuggets decided it was better to toss up bricks than to challenge the teeth of Minnesota’s defense, and they paid dearly for that choice. Denver played the perimeter game but the long rebounds let to the Wolves getting the Nuggets on their heels, and Murray dying on every screen didn’t help the defense much either. Denver lacked energy and focus, which led to massive execution issues and a huge deficit. Denver played slow and tired, while Minnesota fired the ball around the perimeter and across the court, doing to Denver what they had just finished doing to the Wolves in Game 5. The side-to-side passing created openings at the rim that Minnesota exploited to the fullest, while Denver refused to pass or move enough regardless of their shots not falling. The Wolves attacked, and they won big.

Game 7 won’t really have a carryover from this game, but the series patterns will likely continue. Minnesota didn’t beat Denver at their best, they beat the same version of Denver they’ve beaten before. It was a strategy misfire from Denver, but this isn’t a momentum game. It does illustrate the problem for the Nuggets though: they can’t let bad moments spiral into bad quarters that then derail an entire game. Denver HAD a lead. They came out aggressive through one (1) timeout. And then Minnesota punched back, Denver settled for terrible shots and folded. Jamal Murray had played under control in Denver’s prior winning streak, but came out chucking on one end and hobbled on the other, and it led to bad things for Denver on both sides. MPJ had another down game, shooting 1-for-6 from deep, and even Jokic shot under 50%.

Denver cannot play sloppy. They have to limit mistakes possession by possession, and force the Timberwolves to execute on offense which they have not shown they can do under pressure. It’s up to the Nuggets to impose their style on the game. If Minnesota gets to set the tempo and can made Denver one-dimensional either through their own efforts or by allowing Denver to step on an arena full of rakes by themselves, the promising comeback the Nuggets made in this series will be for naught. The Nuggets from Games 2-4 win this series and advance. The Nuggets from Games 1, 2 and 6 absolutely do not. Throttle the Wolves with good execution on both ends, or they will tear the Nuggets apart using Denver’s own mistakes and tentative play. It’s up to Denver which way they want it to go. Minnesota will be happy to take the route to the Western Conference Finals if the Nuggets let them freely walk that path.

Win or go home. That’s all that’s left.