Nuggets vs. Timberwolves Game 3: A Prop, 1st Half Bet for Minnesota

Action Network contributor Brandon Anderson breaks down the Game 3 matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves and shares his top betting pick.

Nuggets vs. Timberwolves Odds

Nuggets Odds -2.5
Timberwolves Odds +2.5
Over/Under 223
Time 9:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

It looks like we might get ourselves a series after all.

For six quarters, the Denver Nuggets throttled the Minnesota Timberwolves. Denver rolled in Game 1 and led by as many as 21 in Game 2 before the Wolves came roaring back with a huge third quarter to take the lead. The Nuggets put the game away with a big closing effort by Jamal Murray, but Minnesota finally showed up to the series.

Will Minnesota carry that momentum into its home playoff debut, or will Denver push the Wolves to the brink and go up 2-0 on the road? Here’s my Nuggets vs. Timberwolves betting preview, including my Game 3 picks and predictions.

Denver Nuggets

Until that awful third quarter, it looked like the Nuggets had flipped the magical postseason switch as Denver was playing its part as the clear West No. 1-seed. The Nuggets rolled by 29 in Game 1 and were net +50 for the series when Denver totally took its foot off the gas.

That third quarter was the nightmare every Denver fan watched unfold over the final month. The defense was absolutely nonexistent, giving up 40 in a quarter and acting as a layup line for Anthony Edwards and Minnesota. The offense made bad, lazy turnovers and didn’t execute. The Nuggets nearly gave away a game it already had completely in the bag, something they’ve done all season.

Of course, the rest of the story counts too. Jamal Murray finally looked healthy again with a 40-point outburst, and Michael Porter Jr. had a flurry of points in the fourth quarter when the team needed answers. Nikola Jokic had his usual MVP performance with a bit of everything, and Aaron Gordon continued to play outstanding defense on Karl-Anthony Towns.

When things are going right for Denver, the Nuggets are just better and more efficient than their opponents — sometimes by a lot. But it’s a worrying sign that that switch can still flop off at times, and it begs the question of which team you’ll get night to night or quarter to quarter.

Minnesota Timberwolves

If the Nuggets are a bit unpredictable, the Timberwolves are a full on roller coaster ride.

The Wolves were dominating the Lakers in the play-in, right up until they weren’t. They throttled the Thunder, then lost by almost as much to Denver the next game. They got blown out in Game 2 and looked already on vacation mode, then nearly won the same game.

The third quarter was something to behold, led largely by a monster Anthony Edwards performance. Edwards has been that dude for Minnesota. He scored 41 and got downhill attacking the rim at will while also draining six 3s and adding five stocks. He increased his scoring from 21.3 in last year’s regular season to 25.2 in the playoffs, and this year he’s up from 24.6 to 29.5.

Not many other Wolves have showed up. The bench has been outscored badly, a big problem considering how weak Denver typically is with Nikola Jokic off the court. Role players typically play better at home, so that could be an important swing coming back to Minnesota.

Karl-Anthony Towns has been downright terrible. He has 21 points in both games combined, scoring those 21 on an ugly 8-of-27 shooting with just four free throw attempts. His defense has showed up at times, but Gordon has all but eliminated his offense, and KAT has nine turnovers in two games. You wonder if Minnesota would take Rudy Gobert off to put Towns at center and force Jokic to defend him on the perimeter rather than hanging around the rim with Gobert, but we just haven’t seen that much yet.

It’s important not to overreact to the most recent thing we saw from Minnesota. The Wolves won that third quarter 40-23 but lost the rest of the game 99-73. In Game 1, they lost the big third quarter 32-14 but also lost the rest of the game 77-66. Minnesota has won only one of eight quarters this series.

Timberwolves-Nuggets Pick

The Nuggets are favored, but at -2.5 this is not far from a coin flip.

This is a do-or-die spot for the Wolves, coming home down 0-2. We know no team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit. Does Minnesota have that fight in them? Will Denver show an ability to step on an opponent’s throat and slam the door?

Historically, this has been a profitable spot to bet on the home team — in the first half. Since 2007, teams down 0-2 returning home for Game 3 are 79-47-9 ATS in the first half, covering 62.6% of the time. That mark has dropped to 15-15-2 since 2018, but .500 isn’t bad for a downswing, especially considering pandemic and other factors.

Denver has a -1.9 Net Rating in road first halves, even as the West 1-seed, and the Nuggets rank 22nd in the NBA at -6.5 Net Rating in just the second quarter on the road. Minnesota isn’t exactly elite in those spots, even at home, but I’d rather trust the Wolves to fight for their season early then rely on them to finish the job late. I’ll take Minnesota +0.5 in the first half.

If you prefer a prop, my favorite play on the board is a simple Towns fade. Even if he gets his scoring going at home, Towns continues to post huge turnover numbers in the playoffs. He’s averaging 3.7 per game between this year’s playoffs and last with 3+ in seven of his eight games, and Gordon has defended him well.

We can play towns over 2.5 turnovers, priced closer to his regular season average, but his turnovers are a real problem in the playoffs. I’ll drink the juice and wait for at least three mistakes.

Pick: Karl-Anthony Towns over 2.5 turnovers (-135) | Timberwolves +0.5 first half