Denver Nuggets 112, Minnesota Timberwolves 114 (OT): Three Takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

Nothing like a little drama on a Friday night! Following the pattern of the week, the Denver Nuggets found themselves in a preseason game that came down to the final seconds… of overtime. Despite having a seven-point lead in the overtime period, the Nuggets fell 114-112 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in their lone preseason game at Ball Arena.

Denver raced out of the gates to a 16-4 lead halfway through the opening frame, using stout defense to generate turnovers while capitalizing on the other end of the floor with hot 3-point shooting. The Nuggets took a 26-19 lead into the second quarter, having knocked down six triples and forced 7 turnovers.

Points were hard to come by in the second quarter for Denver, which allowed Minnesota to grab a 34-30 lead with six minutes remaining in the half. The two teams battled back-and-forth to end the half, with the Nuggets eventually securing a 49-47 lead at the break. Both teams shot below 39 percent in the first half and combined for 16 turnovers. Nikola Jokić finished with 10 points, six rebounds, and five assists in his 16 first-half minutes.

Both offenses woke up in the third quarter, as the two teams continued to trade baskets. After a hot shooting start to the game, the Nuggets rediscovered their rhythm from beyond the arc and knocked down nine 3-pointers in the quarter, headlined by five coming from Bones Hyland. After going scoreless in the first half, the rookie guard dropped 18 points in the third quarter alone to help Denver take an 83-76 lead into the final frame.

Minnesota quickly charged back and cut Denver’s lead to just one with five minutes remaining. As both teams went deeper into the bench rotations, neither team could gain control of the game down the stretch. A mini 5-0 scoring run from Zeke Nnaji gave Denver a 98-92 lead with two minutes remaining. Of course, the shot of the game was Hyland’s 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining that gave Denver a two-point lead. However, Minnesota was able to send the game to overtime with a dunk with three seconds remaining.

Vlatko Cančar got in on the action in overtime with nine points, which helped Denver build a seven-point lead. However, just like the rest of the game, Minnesota was able to climb back and tie the game with 49 seconds remaining. A tough jumper from Jaylen Nowell gave the Timberwolves a two-point lead with 10 seconds remaining. A tip-in from Bol Bol came just after the buzzer, dropping Denver to 0-3 in the preseason.

Here are three takeaways from Friday’s loss:

He’s still getting Bizzy

Hyland’s Mile High debut didn’t go according to plan to begin the game, as the rookie struggled in the first half and ultimately went into the break without a single point.

However, that all changed in the third quarter as the rookie guard lit up the scoreboard, dropping in 18 points, with 15 of them coming from beyond the arc. The rookie also showed that he isn’t afraid of the moment, drilling the aforementioned clutch 3-pointer to give Denver a brief lead towards the end of the fourth quarter.

Hyland showcased the shooting ability that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of VCU, and with another explosive performance, the 21-year-old continues to make a case for playing time to begin the regular season.

Offense still needs some fine-tuning

A theme throughout the preseason has been the importance of valuing each possession. After committing 31 turnovers combined in the first two preseason games, Denver coughed it up 23 times Friday night, which led to 36 points for Minnesota.

Defending in transition has been a focus for Denver throughout training camp and committing a significant number of turnovers isn’t part of the recipe to achieve that goal of improved transition defense. With two preseason games remaining for the Nuggets, they will have more time to work on ironing out the kinks on the offensive end.

Let it fly

Another goal in the upcoming season for head coach Michael Malone and the Nuggets is to inject more 3-point shooting into the offense. Friday was a step in the right direction, as Denver finished 21-of-58 from beyond the arc.

The 58 attempts represent a steep increase over Denver’s average of 34 3-point attempts per game from last season. Although the Nuggets won’t regularly be attempting so many threes, Denver was able to find a rhythm from downtown Friday night, which fueled a significant portion of the overall offense.

The Nuggets return to action Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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