Timberwolves vs. Nuggets Game 2: Trust Minnesota's Defense

Kenny Ducey breaks down the Game 2 matchup between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets and shares his top betting pick.

Timberwolves vs. Nuggets Odds

Timberwolves Odds +8
Nuggets Odds -8
Over/Under 222.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Timberwolves were humbled in a big way on Sunday night. After an energetic and definitive win over the Thunder in the Play-In tournament, the Wolves went into Denver and got absolutely shellacked in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Is there any coming back from this for Minnesota? What did we learn about Denver in Game 1? Let’s take a closer look in our Timberwolves vs. Nuggets betting preview and predictions.

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Minnesota Timberwolves

Coming into the series, we knew a few things to be true about the Timberwolves. Their defense ranked among the top 10 in basketball this season, while they were all the way down in 27th in rebounding and 23rd in offense. The return of Karl Anthony-Towns seemed to promise some better returns for the rebounding and offense, and after a win over the Thunder, it seemed this team was well-equipped to attack a weak Denver defense.

Unfortunately, that didn’t exactly happen in Game 1. The Timberwolves were in over their heads, getting outscored in every quarter and mustering up just 14 points in the third. Minnesota shot just 30.6% from 3 and was outrebounded 54-38. Denver won the battle in the paint, 48-36. The only “win” for Minnesota was probably losing the turnover battle by just one.

To make matters even more complicated, Rudy Gobert is still listed as questionable on the injury report with back spasms while Jaylen Nowell is questionable as well. While both played on Sunday, it’s worth noting that Gobert was a team-worst -28. While plus/minus isn’t always worth reading too much into, it’s clear the offense runs a lot better without him on the floor.

Denver Nuggets

One thing Gobert did accomplish in Game 1 was limiting Jokic to 13 points and 14 rebounds. Now, this didn’t really matter seeing as the Nuggets won by 29 points, but should the big man limit the returns of the MVP hopeful, then Minnesota will be in a much better spot.

To make matters worse, it seems Jokic isn’t feeling 100%. He’s the lone man on the injury report for Denver heading into Game 2, dealing with a right wrist sprain that has him listed as questionable.

It seems very likely he’ll play, but considering the defense that Gobert has played on him, it’s likely that the Nuggets will have to shoot the lights out just as they did in Game 1. A whopping 41% of their 39 looks went in from deep, and on the other side of the ball, the Nuggets played excellent defense on a Timberwolves team that burned them in every meeting this season.

As I noted in my Game 1 guide, this series is going to come down to how Denver does on defense. The Nuggets were just 15th in points allowed per 100 possessions after the All-Star break and had a dastardly 118.4 Defensive Rating against the Timberwolves this season.

Timberwolves-Nuggets Pick

I’m not ready to sell all my Timberwolves shares quite yet. Sure, a win on the road in Game 2 is going to be a tough ask, but I think there’s too much that can go wrong here for the Nuggets.

Jokic is not only hampered by injury at the moment but hasn’t seemed to be the same scoring threat with Gobert on him down low. While he’s an exquisite passer, I’m not quite sure the Nuggets are going to shoot 41% from 3 every single game, particularly against a strong defense like this one.

The Timberwolves should rebound a bit on offense against a defense which has been a letdown time and time again this year and make this one a much closer contest. As long as Gobert is in there, the Timberwolves can slow the Nuggets’ roll on offense just enough to make this one a game. I’ll take this one down to +7.