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Nuggets or Timberwolves? Who will win tonight's showdown and grab the final playoff spot in the West?
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* Tonight on NBA TV: Nuggets vs. Timberwolves (8 ET)
David Aldridge: I'm going Wolves, with no particular enthusiasm and for no reason other than they're at home. Denver's been playing much better ball than Minnesota down the stretch, and maybe a vet like Paul Millsap who's been in a million playoff games carries them across the finish line tonight. But I'm betting the Wolves get a huge night behind what should be a loud crowd from an unexpected source -- maybe a Jeff Teague -- in support of Karl-Anthony Towns and/or Jimmy Butler.
Steve Aschburner: Timberwolves. They’ve got the home court in their, and Denver’s, most important game of the season. And Tom Thibodeau has a veteran-driven lineup with at least one young star (Karl Anthony Towns -- not you, Andrew Wiggins) he can count on and, this is key, grind on for 48 minutes. Not a single officer in the Minnesota media-and-fan-base’s “minutes police” will say boo tonight. The offseason, if the Wolves fail to qualify, will hold untold grief for and wailing about what’s wrong with the roster, the porous defense, the “antiquated” offense and Thibs wearing two hats as head coach and president of basketball ops. But he gets to work this game first, with the power to completely change those narratives.
Shaun Powell: In what is essentially a coin flip, I'm taking the Timberwolves. Truthfully, neither team should be in the position of fighting for the final playoff spot in the West. There's just too much good and emerging talent on both the Nuggets and Wolves, and yes, I realize Paul Millsap and Jimmy Butler did miss chunks of time. But the New Orleans Pelicans (DeMarcus Cousins) and Utah Jazz (Rudy Gobert; Gordon Hayward's offseason departure) weren't whole, either, and they didn't sweat this much. Minnesota needs this more, given their league-long playoff drought and the heat (from the public, mostly) that might be directed towards coach Tom Thibodeau.
John Schuhmann: The Wolves are at home, but the Nuggets have obviously been playing better. Neither team has a reliable defense (whichever team wins will be the second worst defensive team in the playoffs), so it may just be a make-or-miss night, and the Nuggets are the better shooting team from the outside. The bottom line is that anything can happen in a single game, so you're not getting a real prediction here. It's just amazing that the second-longest playoff drought in NBA history is on the line on the final night of the season. Hopefully, this game goes down to the wire.
Sekou Smith: The Timberwolves have home court on their side and should be able to handle their business in a win-or-go-home contest of this sort. So I am, of course, going with the Nuggets. I think they've responded the way you want a team to when they are faced with win-or-it-is-over games basically every night since that March 30 win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City. It doesn't matter who it is or where they've had to play, the Nuggets have shown the sort of mettle it takes to put yourself in a position where you truly control your own destiny. They're going to do the same in this one, which should be an absolutely knock-down, drag-out affair for both teams. I'm looking forward to watching every second of what should be the game of the final night of this regular season.