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Nuggets-Timberwolves: 5 takeaways from Denver’s Game 3 answer



Nuggets-Timberwolves: 5 takeaways from Denver's Game 3 answer

Jamal Murray rediscovered his groove, as did the Nuggets in Recreation 3.

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MINNEAPOLIS — You would see this type of night time coming from right here to, properly, Denver.

With their season and 2023 championship protection primarily on the road, the Nuggets responded on this surprisingly one-sided Western Convention semifinal Recreation 3 with power and conviction. Whether or not or not the sequence will take a drastic flip can be decided Sunday (8 ET, TNT).

However there’s a minimum of a way of suspense after the Nuggets received Recreation 3 breezily and confirmed loads of flex and, properly, determined unwillingness to fall three video games down. It was a blowout from the soar, with the Nuggets retaining a double-digit lead for a lot of the sport and profitable by 27 factors.

There was loads of Jamal Murray and shot-making from the Nuggets and many shoddy stretches at each rims by the Wolves. In consequence, Minnesota misplaced for the primary time in seven video games in these playoffs as their lead on this sequence was lower in half by a dominant and decided Denver response.

It was the most important Recreation 3 margin of victory by a staff that dropped the primary two video games at dwelling in postseason historical past, and particularly spectacular coming off a 26-point Recreation 2 loss.

Listed below are 5 takeaways from the Nuggets’ 117-90 win, and a sequence that’s now 2-1 Minnesota:

1. Murray in a rush to reply

The Goal Heart followers booed Murray proper from the introductions, primarily as a result of he was truly within the introductions.

Quite a lot of have been sad that Murray was allowed to play in any respect; he dodged a suspension (however not a positive) from the league workplace for throwing objects on the ground in Recreation 2.

With out Murray, the Nuggets don’t win this sport. That’s as a result of this was the perfect end result from Murray all through these playoffs. Till Friday, he was largely reckless and inefficient — even within the Laker sequence when he hit large game-deciding jumpers.

Murray was clearly on a mission to alter all that in Recreation 3. Fortunate for him, the three off-days after Recreation 2 helped his sore calf.

Consequently, Murray was frisky from the primary quarter, zipping between double-teams, stepping again for jumpers, getting 18 of his 24 factors by halftime, and taking management of the sport.

Murray now has just one off-day earlier than Recreation 4, so the calf muscle may as soon as once more be a problem.

“That is in all probability the perfect it’s felt going right into a sport,” he stated, “However it tightened up a bit on the finish.”

Three days off did wonders for Jamal Murray, who scores 24 factors on 11-for-21 taking pictures in Denver’s 117-90 victory.

2. Minnesota makes a return to earth

Actually, these playoffs represented the perfect the Wolves may provide. Their protection was historic, Anthony Edwards volcanic, and their depth merely wore down the Suns within the first spherical and, by the primary two video games of this semifinal, the Nuggets.

However this was a not-so-welcome-back to normalcy for a staff that, whereas actually stable and a contender, got here with flaws. And people points haunted the Wolves in Recreation 3, primarily on the offensive finish.

Minnesota couldn’t shoot straight from deep, didn’t match the Nuggets’ sense of urgency and by no means generated any traction to battle again from its first actual deficit within the playoffs. Moreover, the sellout crowd was by no means an element, and followers started beating site visitors dwelling midway by the fourth quarter.

“I haven’t seen a staff win 16 straight within the playoffs,” stated Wolves heart Karl-Anthony Cities. However, he added, “We simply should be a greater model of ourselves. We weren’t tonight.”

Aside from Cities, the Wolves shot 5-for-28 on 3s, scored simply 41 factors within the first half and allowed the Nuggets to roam free offensively — a near-reversal from Minnesota’s decisive Recreation 2 win.

“Our decision-making wasn’t there, normal motion wasn’t there,” stated Wolves coach Chris Finch. “Not a whole lot of good issues on both finish of the ground.”

3. Nuggets crack Wolves’ code with deep taking pictures

A sport in the past the Nuggets have been utterly flummoxed by the Wolves’ urgent and trapping. It stripped away the whole lot Denver does properly — particularly taking pictures.

That modified abruptly on Friday. The Nuggets’ goal was true all night time; they made almost half of their 3-point pictures and linked on 54% general for the sport, particularly spectacular given the standard of protection normally performed by the Wolves.

The fantastic thing about the Nuggets is their calm and deliberate tempo, fostered by a way of familiarity and skill to search out the open man. It is a product of an organically grown staff — an offense that works like a Swiss timepiece — run by Nikola Jokic, maybe the best passing large man in historical past.

None of this was evident final Monday when the Nuggets unraveled, shot 35% general and 30% from deep whereas wanting nothing just like the staff that raised the trophy a yr in the past.

However that was then. One sport can change the move of a sequence, and in that sense, the Nuggets aren’t taking an excessive amount of from Recreation 3.

“We’re removed from doing something to have fun,” stated Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

4. McDaniels’ fouls have been an element

It was a delicate improvement involving a participant who appears to work within the shadows, and it helped the sport get away from the Wolves.

When swingman Jaden McDaniels developed early foul hassle, the Wolves have been stripped of arguably their most necessary defender. That’s how a lot McDaniels’ worth has grown, not solely on this sequence, however all season, truly.

McDaniels is tasked with being a velocity bump for Murray, and thru two video games he did that job properly — Murray by no means drew blood from the Wolves. Then got here Friday. Murray introduced the vitality, and so did McDaniels, although possibly an excessive amount of.

His fouls restricted McDaniels to solely seven first-half minutes, and by then, the Nuggets and Murray have been in management, up 15 factors and cruising.

5. Nuggets regain swagger

This 48-minute efficiency by the Nuggets appeared acquainted. As in, it appeared like final yr’s staff that had few hiccups on the way in which to a championship.

That staff hadn’t appeared within the 2024 playoffs, till now. Despite the fact that the Nuggets wanted simply 5 video games to get previous the Lakers within the first spherical, they trailed at halftime of every sport, then scrambled to win all 4.

The primary two video games on this sequence have been forgettable, particularly Recreation 2, when their physique language was foul in a 26-point loss.

The Nuggets have been constant on this respect: they remained powerful on the street. They’re now 8-4, stretching again to final postseason.

So that they reached again for a 2023 throwback and it agreed with them Friday. The ball moved, Jokic went for 24-14-9, Murray bounced off screens and defenders and the Nuggets stored the Wolves on a treadmill.

“That was Denver Nuggets basketball,” Malone stated.

Malone cited his staff’s rally from a pair of 3-1 deficits within the bubble as proof of its psychological toughness, and likewise spliced collectively chatter of Denver doom during the last three days by TV discuss reveals as motivation.

“Our guys answered the bell,” Malone stated. “They nonetheless imagine.”

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Shaun Powell has lined the NBA for greater than 25 years. You’ll be able to e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and follow him on X.

The views on this web page don’t essentially replicate the views of the NBA, its golf equipment or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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