Timberwolves Dominate Nuggets to Take 2-0 Lead

Wow. Did anybody see this coming? The Minnesota Timberwolves are heading back home with a 2-0 lead over the defending champion Denver Nuggets following an utterly dominant performance Monday night. Following a seven-point win in Game 1, Minnesota entered last night’s game shorthanded.

Rudy Gobert, the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year, missed the game following the birth of his son. With Gobert out, the Wolves would have been forgiven for coming out flat — and a loss would have been expected by many. Instead, the 3-seed Wolves took a 28-20 lead into the second quarter and never looked back.

Behind an incredible defensive effort, Minnesota’s lead ballooned to 20 points less than four minutes into the second quarter. By halftime, the Wolves led by 26 points — 61-35.

“We’ve had some really, really good defensive efforts this year, but that has to be right up there with the best of them,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “On the ball, off the ball, the physicality, the execution of the game plan. … Just really locked in on defense.”

Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns led the Wolves with 27 points apiece, while both Naz Reid and Nickeil
Alexander-Walker drilled four three-pointers apiece off the bench to finish with 14 points.

For Denver, Jamal Murray had another ugly game — both on and off the court. Murray scored eight points shooting 3-of-18 from the field but that was secondary to his actions while on the bench. Murray appeared to throw a towel at a referee and later tossed a heating pad onto the floor during live action.

“We tried to impress upon [the referees] there probably aren’t many fans in the building that have a heat pack, so it probably had to come from the bench, which they found logical,” Finch said. “I’m sure it was a mistake and an oversight and nothing intentional by the officiating at all, but certainly can’t allow that to happen.”

Murray’s status for Game 3 will be a hot topic over the next 24 hours. Regardless of his availability, however, the Wolves know that they still have a lot of work to do to defeat the Nuggets.

“We’re extremely honored and blessed that we have this opportunity to go home up 2-0,” Towns said. “But, we’re humble in this approach. We understand that we’ve put ourselves in a great position, but as great as the position we are in, it could be very bad [if we do not win during] our homestand. So, we just got to go out there, take care of business, do what we do, play defense at a high level and execute even at a higher level because the defending champions, you can’t give them a minute of slippage at all in the game.”