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Towns erupts for 28 points, 14 rebounds as Timberwolves spoil Nuggets home opener

Harrison Wind Avatar
October 31, 2015

 

Coming off a season opening win over last year’s Western Conference Finals runner up, the Houston Rockets, the Denver Nuggets came back to earth in their own home opener and fell at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves 95-78.

In many ways tonight’s loss was a polar opposite of what took place Oct. 28th in Houston when the Nuggets led wire to wire and came out with a 105-85 victory. Denver trailed by 10 points after the first quarter, 10 again at the half, 16 after three and never once held a lead.

After three quarters where Denver seemed to be running through their offensive sets while trudging through the South Platte river, the Nuggets showed some fight in the fourth, closing to within 10 at the 6:47 mark on a Will Barton driving layup. Barton also got fouled on that drive, giving Denver some momentum and a chance to cut the lead to single digits. Barton missed the free throw, Darrell Arthur fumbled away the offensive rebound and the Nuggets never got closer after that.

For Denver, the positives tonight were few and far between.

Gary Harris struggled against the taller Andrew Wiggins, committing two fouls in the first half, and was quickly shown the bench. From there, Harris could never recover and get into a rhythm of any sorts and played just 18 minutes tonight.

The Nuggets also struggled on the interior. Karl-Anthony Towns had his way with the starting frontcourt of Joffrey Lauvergne and Kenneth Faried on his way to 28 points and 14 rebounds. Nikola Jokic was the one bright sport along Denver’s frontline. The rookie was a +10 in 18 minutes and finished with 10 points and 9 rebounds in limited time.

After committing 11 turnovers in Houston, Mudiay limited himself to four giveaways tonight, but he settled for perimeter jumpers often and didn’t show the aggressiveness he’s played with throughout the preseason and the opener in Houston.

However, from the opening tip it was clear the effort and energy, which should a constant on opening night in front of a home crowd, which saw this team just once this preseason, was absent.

The offense tonight was ugly, disconnected and almost lazy. Denver shot 5-25 from 3-point range, more in line with the 32.5 mark they shot from three last season than the 48.1 percent they shot from distance in Houston.

It was clear Denver would regress from the opener, but it was disturbing to see their shooting fall off a cliff and revert to last season’s form this early. Denver shot a disastrous 30.5 percent from the field tonight.

Onlookers beware, the above chart is appropriately scary for Halloween.
Onlookers beware, the above chart is appropriately scary for Halloween.

The common buzzword this offseason was pace and if the Nuggets would get back to the up-and-down, free-flowing offensive mindset that made them so successful at home in the past.

Michael Malone preached from the moment he was named head coach in Denver that pace is important to him and it would be foolish for the Nuggets not use the altitude to their advantage, yet somehow the Nuggets were out ran by a Minnesota team that started 39-year-old Kevin Garnett and 35-year-old Tayshaun Prince.

“I thought we walked the ball up. We were very slow, we were very methodical, there was no energy,” Malone said post game. “When we got back from Houston everyone was saying, ‘Man we love the energy.’ Well, tonight it was the complete opposite. I thought we had no energy for most of the game and I don’t care who you play. We as a team must be an energy [team], compete, pace [for] 48 minutes and we did not see nearly enough of that tonight.”

Malone continued to echo the lack of urgency and energy the Nuggets displayed tonight.

“I think it’s a lot more with us coming out with no sense of urgency,” Malone said. “We came out very flat, no pace to our game, no purpose to our game, and the team we saw Wednesday night in Houston was not the team we saw tonight. Way too flat and for whatever reason we just had no energy.”

Towards the end of the second half, the Nuggets finally found something that worked. The bench unit comprised of Barton, Jameer Nelson, Arthur, Jokic and at times Danilo Gallinari tried to bring Denver back from the dead, but tonight clearly wasn’t meant to be.

Jokic was Denver’s best and most effective player tonight, and the one guy who gave the energy and effort that the rest of Denver’s rotational players lacked.

Here he seals Kevin Martin and draws the foul. Jokic was the one interior player I noticed who stood up to Towns and the Timberwolves frontline during the 18 minutes he was out there.

“We finally found a group in the second half that played the right way and made a little bit of a run but the damage was done,” Malone said. “We couldn’t make a shot and Karl-Anthony Towns showcased why he’s one of the best young bigs in the NBA.”

It’s still an early season and the boo-birds that accompanied the Nuggets on the way off the court probably aren’t warranted, but how Denver came out tonight against a team which isn’t going to make much noise in the Western Conference is cause for a little concern.

“When you have to coach effort you’re in trouble.” Malone said.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 11.04.23 PM

The Nuggets will look to bounce back against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder who eked out a double-overtime win in Orlando tonight, a difficult opponent to bounce back with after such a disappointing home opener.

 

 

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