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The Minnesota Timberwolves Feast on the Defending Champions

Brendan Vogt Avatar
May 7, 2024

Nikola Jokić – F

Rudy Gobert missed Game 2 due to the birth of his child. That did not make life any easier for Jokić, who faced an onslaught of double teams with few options around him. Jamal Murray was playing on one leg. Michael Porter’s shooting dried up. And the Wolves were content to let Aaron Gordon try to dig the Nuggets out of a deep hole in the first half. That is not a recipe for success. Jokić showed little interest in moving mountains to find an alternative path to victory. He showed even less interest in getting a stop. He got torched on that end all night long. It looked and felt an awful lot like Game 3 against the Utah Jazz in the bubble. The likely MVP and defending champions are up against the ropes. Someone needs to step up.

Jamal Murray – F

Jamal Murray can’t move out there. He struggled to hit shots before the calf injury in round one, and the lack of lift isn’t helping now. Murray finished 3/18 from the floor in the loss. He did lead all players with 13 rebounds, which showed some fight, but he had nothing to give defensively. The Wolves deserve credit. They smell blood, and they’ve pounced. There is no rest or mercy for 27 and the Nuggets right now. The opposition is relentless and inspired.

Murray’s lack of production is at least tenable, considering the injury. His lack of composure in the face of a tough whistle was startling. He threw his hands in the air, frustrated by doubles, aggressive stunts, and resistance at the rim. He clapped in frustration at the officiating crew and even tossed a heating pad at a referee while sitting on the bench. The league is reviewing the incident.

Michael Porter Jr – F

Porter’s been one of Denver’s best players in the postseason, but his production dried up in Game 3. The Wolves were ready to run him off the line, and his first few looks were awkward stepbacks. He never found a rhythm. As Denver lost their composure, the wheels went loose for Porter. He began forcing looks at the rim and turning it over. Things fell apart quickly for the Nuggets.

Aaron Gordon – C+

Gordon scored 13 points by making his first five shots of the game. Jokić looked at him over and over before the first timeout of the game. He was Denver’s only hope early, ultimately a sign that things weren’t going well. Two of those first five shots were 3s. He drained them, but that’s not Denver’s blueprint. AG deserves credit for playing with the right energy. Still, the Nuggets got crushed once again while he was on the floor.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – D+

This is turning into a brutal series for KCP. His defensive prowess doesn’t equate to effectiveness in this matchup. He’s banged up and hasn’t contributed much to the offense in some time. The starters are getting waxed.

Reggie Jackson – F

Murray’s hobbled, and so is the backup point guard. Jackson played 82 games during this regular season, and it’s catching up with him. He missed five of six shots and was eventually helped back to the locker room after turning an ankle. The Nuggets are running out of options.

Christain Braun – C+

Braun didn’t light the world on fire, but his minutes went well. Unfortunately, he only logged 10:30 on the floor. He probably should play more in Game 3.

Justin Holiday – A-

Holiday was the best player off the bench and even better than multiple starters, shooting 4/5 from deep. Holiday also took to the podium after the loss. The readers may not care, but that’s a bizarre choice and a tough look for the organization. The team’s leaders should face the public after a performance like that. We did hear from Nikola Jokić as well, although his answers weren’t exactly inspiring.

Peyton Watson – C-

Malone is clearly hesitant to throw Watson into the action. He logged the least time of any rotation player.

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