Timberwolves vs. Nuggets Game 1: Fade Denver's Defense

Kenny Ducey breaks down the Game 1 matchup between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets and shares his top betting pick.

Timberwolves vs. Nuggets Odds

Timberwolves Odds +7.5
Nuggets Odds -7.5
Over/Under 224.5
Time 10:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

After they were taken down by the Lakers in the first leg of the Play-In Tournament in a thoroughly disappointing performance, the Timberwolves easily dispatched the Thunder on Friday to secure a spot in the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Nuggets.

The No. 1 seed in the Western Conference certainly has some unfinished business and will look to open its postseason with a bang in front of its home fans.

Let’s get into how to bet Game 1 of this fun first-round matchup with our Timberwolves vs. Nuggets preview and prediction.

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Minnesota Timberwolves

After going through many peaks and valleys, the Timberwolves really looked like a competent basketball team in the second half of the season. They ranked 12th on the defensive end in the 21 games they played and ultimately finished with seven wins in their last 10 before going 1-1 in the Play-In Tournament.

When it was all said and done, the Timberwolves had a top-10 defense for the season. That’s what has them in this position because their rebounding, which ranked 27th, and their offense, which ranked 23rd, were significant weaknesses.

The Timberwolves can shoot, with Mike Conley doing the heavy lifting against the Lakers and the team as a whole shooting 40.6% from 3 against the Thunder. We also saw the Timberwolves look like a completely different offense when Karl-Anthony Towns returned from injury on March 22, and he did an excellent job steadying that end.

The Nuggets and Timberwolves split the season series, although Towns didn’t play in any of the four meetings. Jokic also missed one of the regular season matchups between these teams, which Minnesota won.

Denver Nuggets

Here’s what we know about the Nuggets: They’re going to score the basketball. Even with continued prowess on this end, though, Denver certainly slowed down as the season came to a close.

The Nuggets ranked fifth in Offensive Efficiency this year and fourth in 3-point shooting, but after the break, they were just 17th offensively, going 12-11 to close the season. It seems easy to chalk that up to indifference since the Nuggets were never really in danger of losing a top-three seed in the West, but it’s certainly not like we can say they were cruising coming into the postseason.

However, the Nuggets can be trusted to score here, especially considering Minnesota ranked in the bottom 10 in 3-point defense during the regular season. It’s going to come down to their defensive effort and execution, particularly against Towns.

While he missed this year’s regular season series, Towns shot 45.5% from 3 in four games against the Nuggets last year and averaged 25.5 points. That’s the storyline I’m watching here; the Nuggets had the third-best 3-point defense in the NBA this season as they allowed just 34.4% 3-point shooting.

Timberwolves-Nuggets Pick

This game really comes down to how much damage the Timberwolves can do offensively against a 15th-ranked Denver defense. The Nuggets will wake up after their late-season slumber offensively, particularly considering their shooting remains sublime, and Minnesota’s 3-point defense has been pretty tough.

While they’ve been excellent at limiting 3s, the Timberwolves (Towns in particular) are shooting it really well right now and look like a competent team on that end. Minnesota had a solid 118.4 Offensive Rating in four games against the Nuggets, and that was without Towns. Expect the Timberwolves to break through once more against a relatively uninterested Nuggets defense, even on the road.

I’m very skeptical of the Nuggets right now and will be grabbing the Timberwolves until the Nuggets prove their defense is good enough to help them pull away.