MINNEAPOLIS – The decibel level at Target Center reached what felt like a new Game 3 high after an Anthony Edwards 3-pointer that pulled the Timberwolves to within three points of the Nuggets with 10:32 left in the fourth quarter.
Then three minutes later, it reached a new low.
That’s how quickly everything changes in the playoffs. That’s how quickly a game can flip. Minnesota was building momentum during an early fourth-quarter run. The crowd was back. The belief was there, I think.
Christian Braun quickly snatched it all away.
The rookie was the catalyst of a 9-2 Nuggets burst immediately following Edwards’ triple that helped Denver to a 120-111 win in Game 3 Friday night. Braun had three layups — including one that went over/through Timberwolves shot-blocker Rudy Gobert — and a key assist that led to a Michael Porter Jr. 3 during the run.
“He’s just poised, and you need a certain level of poise to be playing this time of year,” Aaron Gordon said of Brown.
“We’re very lucky to have him,” added Porter.
Target Center turned dead silent after Braun’s fourth-quarter explosion. The in-arena MCs tried to rile the Timberwolves faithful back up but to no avail. The building was dead. Timberwolves fans were done. This series feels like it’s finished.
After the win, DNVR asked Braun what it’s like to quiet an entire opposing arena on this stage.
He gave the response of a 10-year vet.
“Just trying to get any lead that we could, to get our guys back in there,” Braun said. “To get that lead back, especially after I made that mistake, it obviously felt good. When I do make opportunities, I’ve got to make the most of them.”
The mistake Braun is referring to was an early-fourth quarter turnover that preceded Edwards’ 3. For a moment, the always-poised rookie looked a little rattled. No one would have blamed him either. This is a big stage, and Target Center can reach a level of loud that I’m not sure Ball Arena can — not because of the fans in either building but due to how it’s constructed and how old the Timberwolves’ arena is. It’s just a different kind of noise and roar here.
But Malone stuck with Braun and it paid off.
“If I yank Christian Braun out after a turnover, how is he going to be able to impact the game?” Malone said. “He’s going to be looking over his shoulder after every mistake. You can’t play like that.”
Denver’s Game 3 win should put the end to this series in sight. And by now, you can see a stark contrast between these two teams.
The Nuggets play together. They play for each other. They’re an actual team. The Timberwolves give off the vibe that they aren’t.
“Our team is not just Nikola,” Malone said. “It’s not just Jamal.”
Denver has maturity, leadership, chemistry, culture, poise and execution. The Nuggets play for each other. They pick one another up. They’re selfless. A lot of times those can be hallow words, but in this case they aren’t.
The Nuggets are everything the Timberwolves are not. And that has been extremely apparent through three games.
What’s also been clear so far in this series is that the Nuggets seem like they’re on a mission. They haven’t gotten too high or too low after any of these three wins. This has been a very business-like approach.
“The focus that we’ve had and our discipline has been off the charts,” said Nikola Jokic after he recorded the NBA’s first triple-double of the playoffs in Game 3, a 20-point, 11-rebound, 12-assist effort.
Denver talked a big game at practice all week leading into this series about how locked in and focused they were. This team wasn’t lying one bit. The Nuggets expected to dominate and have dominated.
They should again in Game 4.