On Wednesday night, the 1-seeded Denver Nuggets hosted the 8-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves for game 2 of the first round western conference matchup. Denver won game 1 in dominant fashion behind Jamal Murray’s 24-point performance and were looking to take a commanding 2-0 series lead heading into game 2.
Roller Coaster Ride
The Nuggets looked to be well on their way to such a lead for the first half of this game. They entered halftime with a fifteen point lead over Minnesota, who continued to struggle finding rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.
But the tide shifted dramatically in the third quarter. Minnesota went on an unbelievable run to take a 2-point lead heading into the 4th after a 40-point quarter. They looked unstoppable on offense, where Anthony Edwards lit up the defense with stellar shooting. The Timberwolves were firing on all cylinders, even with Denver’s always-influential center Nikola Jokic still on the floor.
Ultimately, the Nuggets figured things out. In the final quarter, Denver outscored Minnesota 35-24 to win the game 122-113, earning the top-seeded squad a stifling 2-0 series lead. Had the Timberwolves been able to keep their lead and steal game 2 before heading back home for the next two, things would have been concerning for Denver. Instead, Nuggets fans are sitting comfortably– at least for now.
Problems Down The Road
Even though the Nuggets pulled this one out, the mid-game slump raises some concerns for the 1 seed. It’s well-known that Denver is one of the weaker top seeds in recent memory, especially considering they wouldn’t even be in the top 3 in the eastern conference based on record. Nikola Jokic is, as always, a legitimate MVP candidate, and he’s surrounded by reliable talent such as Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon, but the Nuggets showed signs of weakness in the regular season, particularly against top teams.
They’re not as consistent as they’d like to be, and that fact reared its head in the third quarter last night. Of course, Minnesota’s mediocrity allowed the Nuggets to retake control, but could this be a bad omen of things to come for Denver?
The Nuggets will not be able to afford quarters like this in the second round against either the Los Angeles Clippers or Phoenix Suns, nor in the conference finals against most likely the Lakers or the Sacramento Kings. They will need to shore up their inconsistency quickly if they want a long run to the NBA Finals.
Denver can absolutely win the championship. They have the talent, health and MVP candidate to do so. However, they’ll need to put all that together on a night-to-night basis if they want to contend with the superstar-studded Suns, the deep Clippers, the prolific Kings or the surging Lakers.