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May 9, 2024 7:22 pm

Already rolling, Timberwolves expect to have Rudy Gobert against Nuggets

Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert is expected to rejoin the Minnesota Timberwolves when they tip off against the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series Friday night in Minneapolis.

Gobert, who earned his fourth NBA Defensive Player of the Year award this week, missed Game 2 because of the birth of his son. He watched on TV as his teammates more than made up for his absence with stifling defense in a 106-80 win on the road against the Nuggets.

The victory gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“It was incredible,” Gobert said. “Obviously I was watching the game, holding the baby at the same time. But I had a little emotion at the same time because it was something special. The energy, the focus that they had, the determination.

“I don’t know, there was something special in the way they came out. They came out to play 48 minutes. It was an incredible day, an incredible way to end the day for me and obviously the whole organization.”

Now Denver must find a way to avoid slipping into a 3-0 series deficit on the road.

The Nuggets are the defending NBA champions and boast the best player on the court in three-time MVP Nikola Jokic – the latest honor coming Wednesday. He has averaged 27.0 points this postseason to go along with 15.0 rebounds and 9.4 assists – all team bests.

Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray each have averaged 20.4 points during the playoffs. But Murray is coming off a Game 2 in which he shot 3-for-18 from the field, 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and finished with four turnovers and only two assists.

Murray threw a heating pad on the court during Game 2. The NBA responded by fining him $100,000, but he avoided suspension.

Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson said everyone felt frustrated after the second game.

“They punked us,” he said. “They literally just manhandled us.”

The Timberwolves hope to maintain that mentality as they return to Target Center, where they posted a 30-11 record during the regular season and won both of their first-round playoff games against the Phoenix Suns.

Minnesota is 6-0 in the playoffs thanks in large part to its 22-year-old superstar, Anthony Edwards, who is averaging 32.3 points in the postseason. Karl-Anthony Towns is averaging 20.7 points and 9.0 rebounds, and Gobert is averaging a double-double with 13.2 points and 11.4 rebounds.

Edwards tried to deflect attention from his scoring by highlighting the defensive prowess of his teammate, forward Jaden McDaniels. Through two games, McDaniels has scored only five points, but he has posted a plus-40 rating because of his defense.

“He doesn’t complain,” Edwards said. “He just keeps guarding, picking up full court. He’s definitely the X-factor of the team.”

Meanwhile, Nuggets coach Mike Malone said he was confident that his team could bounce back and rediscover the rhythm that helped it win the championship a year ago. Malone said he would encourage Jokic to take more control of the offense.

“He’s just got to look to be more aggressive,” Malone said. “If they’re not doubling, he’s got to look to make more shots.”

–Field Level Media

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