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May 5, 2024 8:22 pm

Timberwolves eye 2-0 lead over defending champion Nuggets

anthony edwards

The Denver Nuggets blew through the playoffs last year, never trailing in a series and dropping only four games on their way to the title.

Things are different this season, as the Minnesota Timberwolves showed in winning Game 1 in Denver on Saturday night. Minnesota’s 106-99 victory gives it homecourt advantage in the Western Conference semifinals with a chance to go up 2-0 Monday night in Game 2.

The Timberwolves have started this postseason with five straight wins — all of them convincing wins. Minnesota was the team executing down the stretch Saturday night, harassing the Nuggets into mistakes they usually inflict on opponents.

But Denver isn’t panicking heading into what could be considered a must-win at home on Monday night.

“Sweeping the playoffs probably wouldn’t be as fun when we look back on the memories,” Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson said.

While the Timberwolves have coasted through the postseason the Nuggets had to grind out wins in the first round. On Saturday, they ran into a familiar opponent, one that bothered Nikola Jokic into an 11-for-25 shooting night and held most of the Denver lineup in check.

Now the onus is on the Nuggets to make the adjustments and monitor Jamal Murray’s injured calf. Murray has not shot the ball well in six playoff games, but he isn’t using it as an excuse.

“Everybody’s got leg injuries. Everybody’s playing through something at this point in the season,” said Murray, who had 17 points in Game 1. “My calf is no different than anybody else on the team.”

One player who isn’t struggling is Minnesota guard Anthony Edwards, who has become dominant in the postseason. He had 25 of the Timberwolves’ 40 points in the first half of Game 1, finished with 43 points, and has scored 119 in the last three playoff games. He also has gained a fan: Jokic.

“To be honest, he’s a special player. I have huge respect for him. he can do everything on the floor,” Jokic said of Edwards. “You need to give him respect, how good and how talented he is.”

When Denver doubled Edwards, he was able to find open teammates who knocked down shots. Naz Reid scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including two big 3-pointers.

“The whole team, we trust each other,” Edwards said. “It doesn’t matter down the stretch who takes the shot.”

Minnesota proved fearless at the start and finish of Game 1. The Timberwolves raced out to an 18-4 lead in the first six minutes and used an 8-0 run late in the fourth quarter to pull away.

The Timberwolves respect Jokic’s talent, too, and it was apparent in how much defensive attention they paid to the two-time MVP. The Timberwolves rotated big men Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns and Reid on Jokic and sent double teams at him when he was in the paint.

Jokic scored 32 points, but he had to work for them.

“Going against the best player in the world is always fun,” Edwards said about facing Jokic. “Going against the best team in the world is always fun.”

–Field Level Media

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