Timberwolves deliver big rally, still fall down 2-0 to Denver
Minnesota was out-executed in the closing minutes by a team accustomed to doing that to opponents all season.
DENVER -- The Minnesota Timberwolves dug themselves a 2-0 hole with their 122-113 Game 2 defeat Wednesday in Denver, but it’s hard to bury them after their second-half effort suggested a pulse is indeed present.
But in the bigger picture that is the NBA playoffs, close only counts for so much. Because in the end, Minnesota was out-executed in the closing minutes by a team that was accustomed to doing that to opponents all season.
Jamal Murray was a flamethrower in the final frame, hitting one shot after another to spoil an equally heroic effort from Anthony Edwards.
The guards went back and forth for 12 minutes of scintillating basketball, with Murray scoring 10 in the final frame versus Edwards’ 14.
For the game, Murray tallied 40 points, while Edwards had 41. In the end, Murray simply had more help. Nikola Jokic finished with 27 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, while Michael Porter Jr. scored 13 points of his own in the fourth for Denver.
Edwards’ partner in crime, Karl-Anthony Towns, struggled in another playoff game. The center finished with just 10 points on 3 for 12 shooting to go with five turnovers.
While it wasn’t enough to lead Minnesota to victory, it was an important performance for Edwards to remind everyone just how lethal he can be on the big stage.
And it was the guard who gave Minnesota the life it needed to nearly pull off an improbable rally.
Minnesota trailed by as many as 21 in the first half, and appeared to be en route to its second blowout defeat in as many games. The Wolves were lucky to be down just 15 at the break, but there was nothing to suggest they’d be capable of overcoming any type of deficit.
But the Timberwolves came out of the break with a different energy and commitment level on the defensive end. They made life difficult on seemingly every Denver possession, forcing the Nuggets into one tough shot after another. The stops led to transition buckets.
Minnesota went on a 14-0 run to not only get back into the game, but take the lead.
It was a stark contrast from everything the Wolves did over the first six quarters of the series. Denver tallied 19 fast break points in the first half to Minnesota’s zero as the Timberwolves didn’t generate good offense and didn’t put enough emphasis into getting back in transition.
That type of basketball is a great recipe to get Minnesota swept. The brand of basketball it played in the second half can allow it to truly challenge the No. 1 seed.
The Timberwolves may have found a formula to contend — taking advantage of Rudy Gobert in pick-and-roll actions, having Anthony Edwards be aggressive playing off the catch and relying on wise decision-making from Karl-Anthony Towns on his attacks.
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