Nuggets embarrassed, Timberwolves take death grip on series

May 6, 2024, 10:31 PM | Updated: 10:33 pm

DENVER—The game was over before halftime and so too was the series and season—the Denver Nuggets got beat in a way they simply never had been before. The Minnesota Timberwolves made Nikola Jokic’s crew mortal on Monday, crushing Game 2 106-80, to take a commanding 2-0 road lead on the reigning champions.

It didn’t matter that four-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert was not in Denver, the NBA’s best defense dismantled the long-touted Nuggets offense. Denver failed to score more than 20 points in either of the first two quarters, with Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. scoring just 12 points on 23 shots in the first half.

It didn’t get better in the second with the Wolves starting on a run to extend their huge early lead to 32 points. Lifeless and without answer, the Nuggets showed a lot of quit—never getting the game back within 15 points even while getting a 17-4 run at one point.

On the game, the Wolves shot 51%, threw 28 assists to Denver’s lousy 16, and got 16 turnovers out of the Nuggets. It wasn’t even a scorching hot shooting night—nope, it just a butt-kicking from the no longer up-and-coming Wolves but the ones that are here and blew the doors off the banner-raisers.

Without Gobert, it was All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns and NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Naz Reid, who each stepped up big time. The two combined for 41 points, adding seven of Minnesota’s threes. Anthony Edwards also had a big game, scoring 27 points on 17 shots.

Jokic actually finished with a near triple-double, on 16 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists, but it was easily one of his worst postseason games ever. Denver got 20 from Aaron Gordon 13 of which were in the first quarter. The bad play meant Justin Holiday was actually the team’s third-best scorer at 13 points.

Since 1984, road teams that go up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series are 22-4. Denver will have to make themselves the fifth team to overcome such a deficit. Of course, this Nuggets core, led by Jokic, Murray and Michael Malone did overcome two 3-1 series deficits in the bubble to Mike Conley, Gobert and the Jazz as well as the Clippers—something only done nine times let alone in back-to-back series. The Nuggets last lost a playoff series with Murray healthy—back then in the 2020 bubble, dropping in the Western Conference Finals to the Lakers.

Also in the bubble was the Nuggets other lowest-scoring playoff game in the Jokic and Malone era, an 80-point effort for a Game 7 win against the Jazz

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