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Denver Nuggets 93, Minnesota Timberwolves 91: Three Takeaways

Social & Digital Content Manager

The final seconds of Saturday’s game between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves were not for the faint of heart. Denver escaped with a 93-91 victory as Will Barton blocked Malik Beasley’s game-tying attempt, which secured a 14-point comeback for the Mile High squad.

It was a back-and-forth affair to begin the game, with the Nuggets holding a narrow 10-9 lead at the first timeout. Monte Morris set the tone early with nine points in the quarter, but Minnesota held a 32-23 lead after the first 12 minutes. Cold shooting (38.5 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from beyond the arc) and four turnovers plagued Denver on the offensive end.

The Nuggets’ struggles continued in the second quarter as the second unit wasn’t able to find a rhythm. Although Minnesota wasn’t shooting lights out throughout the first half (just 38.3 percent from the field), it was enough to take advantage and secure a 47-43 lead at the halftime break. After being down double-digits, Denver used a 14-4 run to cut the deficit down to just four points.

Neither team could grab control of the game in the opening minutes of the second half as made shots continued to elude both squads. Denver briefly tied the game at 58 near the midway point of the third quarter and several key defensive plays helped turn the game around as the Nuggets eventually took the lead late in the frame. Unfortunately for Denver, Minnesota caught fire from beyond the arc in the closing minutes of the quarter to take a 73-69 lead into the final frame.

The two teams traded buckets to open the final quarter, with Minnesota holding an 87-82 lead near the midway point of the frame. A quick 7-2 run from Denver tied the game up at 89 before the Nuggets took a 93-89 lead following a Monte Morris layup and free throws from Nikola Jokić, who ended Saturday’s win with 26 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s victory.

Defense, defense, and more defense

For fans of efficient and exciting offense, Saturday’s game may not have been the most enjoyable viewing experience. Both teams struggled to hit shots and take care of the ball, which resulted in a low-scoring affair.

Denver finished at 40.9 percent from the field and 24.3 percent from downtown, compared to 38.9 percent from the field and 31.7 percent from beyond the arc for Minnesota. The Nuggets were certainly active defensively, finishing with 11 steals and 11 blocks.

Turnovers continue to be an issue

Heading into Saturday’s contest, the Nuggets averaged the most turnovers per game in the league, while Minnesota forced the most turnovers per game. On a night in which shots weren’t falling for Denver, committing 18 turnovers only made things more difficult on the offensive end.

Those turnovers led directly to 18 points for Minnesota, who also struggled to take care of the ball, ultimately finishing with 20 turnovers on the night. Denver’s offense is still a work in progress six games into the season, with limiting turnovers at the top of the wish list moving forward.

Hyland provides a spark

After early struggles on the offensive end of the floor Saturday night, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone opted to deploy rookie Bones Hyland off the bench in hopes of receiving a spark and scoring punch on the second unit.

Hyland did just that by pushing the pace in transition and finding teammates for quality looks. The 21-year-old rookie finished with eight points and three assists in his 18 minutes of action and might have made enough of an impression to secure more playing time moving forward as Denver continues to iron out the second unit rotation.

Denver returns to action Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies (6 p.m. MT).