Denver Nuggets 123, Minnesota Timberwolves 116: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

It wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been, but the Nuggets (3-4) are riding their first win streak of the season after beating the Timberwolves (2-5) 123-116 at Ball Arena. 

Denver led by as many as 18 points in the first quarter and seemingly had a commanding grip of the game. Then former Nugget Juancho Hernangomez responded with a monster second quarter, sparking his team with 11 points in that quarter. The Nuggets would respond in the second half in an almost deja-vu fashion. Similar to their last outing against Minnesota, Denver would respond with a surge in the beginning of the fourth quarter, this time a 15-0 run, to effectively take control of the contest.

"Wins are hard to come by, bottom line. We are trying to figure this out as we go, so to beat a division opponent twice in-a-row, to get to 3-4, we’ll take it," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game. "I’d much rather clean up all the things we have to clean up after a win, rather than a loss."

Nikola Jokić continued his early-season dominance, leading the Nuggets with 35 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Denver finished the night with seven players in double figures. D’Angelo Russell was the leading scorer for the Timberwolves, pacing the team with 33 to go along with 11 assists.

The Nuggets will turn their focus to a potential third win in a row when they host the 3-4 Mavericks (8 p.m. MT, TNT).

"[Our] Fourth quarter defense was great, and we’ll have to figure out how to put together 48 minutes with Dallas coming to town," Malone said.

Here are the takeaways: 

MVP, MVP, MVP

Yes, it is only seven games into the season, but Jokić is playing out of his mind right now.

The center had a strong first half, putting 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. He was even better in the final 24 minutes of the game. 

With the Nuggets trailing by five at 4:41 mark of the third quarter, Jokić appeared to fire himself up with a dunk off an assist from Jamal Murray. It would one of several exclamation points from the Serbian in the course of a 24-point second half. 

"I tell him before every game to go out there and win MVP. He could be the best player in the world if he wanted to," Will Barton III said. "It’s all up to him. I feel like he just can’t be stopped."

Jokić appears to find new ways to impress each and every game and that has to be exciting for Nuggets fans.

"I never think about that. I’m just thinking about the next game. I think that’s what the mentality needs to be," Jokić said about the possibility of an MVP season. "It’s a long season and you never know what’s going to happen. You just need to think about the next game."
"When you think in the future, I think you put a lot of pressure on yourself. So, I’m just trying to think about the next game."

JaMychal Green continues rise 

JaMychal Green was a player the Nuggets wanted since the end of the 2018-19 season before his eventual arrival in the 2020 offseason. Tuesday gave a good glimpse as to why he’s been long coveted by Denver.

Green was active on both ends of the floor, providing some much-needed grit and floor spacing for Malone’s team. He was also active in cutting, a key part of the Nuggets offense, and found himself on the end of more than a few brilliant passes. Check out this pass below:

Green would finish the night with 17 points, six boards and shot 5 of 8 – including 3 of 3 from downtown.

Thrill’s hustle a factor

Will Barton III finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals and played a pivotal role in helping the Nuggets secure their first win streak of the season.

After the Nuggets saw their 18-point lead dwindle away and turn into an eight-point deficit, Barton III revigorated his team with big offensive and defensive plays in the third quarter. The small forward made a key steal and followed it up with a thunderous one-handed slam that got the entire Nuggets bench off their seats.

"I feel good. It’s a process. Game-by-game it’s getting better and feeling better," Barton III said. "I’m getting better timing, getting better rhythm, and getting my legs back under me. I knew it would be this way so it’s nothing."

Every time the T’wolves appeared to make a momentum-shifting play, Barton III seemingly had an answer for it with another timely play. It’s a nice rebound for a player who has had an inconsistent start to the season.

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