The Timberwolves are built to beat the Nuggets
Anthony Edwards. Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Timberwolves are built to beat the Nuggets

Just when it seemed the Denver Nuggets were poised for another run toward the NBA Finals, they had to face a team built to beat them. The Minnesota Timberwolves may be Denver's biggest threat, and that was on full display Saturday night. 

Minnesota beat Denver 106-99 in Game 1, claiming an early series lead with a win on the road. Denver is now in a position it hasn't been in since before the 2023 postseason: trailing in a series. 

While Nikola Jokic ended up scoring 32 points in Game 1, Anthony Edwards was the most dominating force on the court. Edwards scored 43 points while also adding seven rebounds and three assists. The young All-Star was also the more efficient of the two, going 17 for 29 in comparison to Jokic's 11-for-25 night. Their sidekicks Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Murray contributed 20 and 17 points, respectively. 

This is a series most expect to go the distance, and it very likely will be a long one, but Minnesota has shown they can absolutely defeat the defending champions. Minnesota poses a problem for the Nuggets because it mirrors them in many ways. The Timberwolves possess a youthful energy and even more athleticism than Denver.  

Minnesota simply matches up very well with the Nuggets. No team has an answer for Jokic. Denver's two-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP can go through just about any defense and get to the basket whenever he wants on most nights. But Jokic's life isn't as easy against the Timberwolves. No one can stop Jokic altogether, but Minnesota has arguably the best chance to defend against the system that Jokic spearheads.

“The Timberwolves are going to the NBA Finals. This isn’t new. This is who they’ve been all season,” said Kendrick Perkins on ESPN. 

Minnesota can match Denver's size and has the best defender in the series in Rudy Gobert. A plus-12 with 13 rebounds, Gobert made his presence felt in Game 1. While primarily guarding Aaron Gordon and clogging up airspace around the rim, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year keyed a scheme that led to Jokic taking 25 shots for 32 points. Minnesota as a group also made Jokic work and carry the load since Murray went scoreless through the first half, often blanketed by Edwards.

If Minnesota can advance to the Western Conference finals, neither the Mavericks nor the Thunder have a defensive stopper like Gobert or have the size and length to clog the paint.

They may not have the experience, but the Timberwolves have proven all season that they are for real and won't be intimidated by the defending champs. And unfortunately for Denver, the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a return trip to the NBA Finals is right here in the second round. 

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