Denver Nuggets 114, Minnesota Timberwolves 103: Three takeaways
The Nuggets left no room for complacency as they took of business with a 114-103 win over the Timberwolves in Minneapolis.
Denver secured homecourt advantage and has a small chance of reaching the third seed. Considering those factors, Michael Porter Jr. was rested and Michael Malone opted to experiment with a new starting five and rotation. JaVale McGee got his first start in his second stint with the Nuggets while Markus Howard and Vlatko Čančar saw extended playing time. The trio wouldn’t disappoint as they all played a significant part in the team’s win.
Nikola Jokić, opting against rest, continued his sizzling play this season with 31 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists in 33 minutes. The Nuggets had six double-digit scorers against Minnesota.
The Timberwolves were paced by Rookie of the Year contender Anthony Edwards, who had 29 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two swats.
Denver quickly returns to action when it faces the Pistons in Detroit (6 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).
Here are the takeaways:
Malone said he would try out different lineups in the close of the regular season and he turned a few heads by giving McGee his first start since his arrival in Denver. The veteran went out with something to prove and posted his first double-double with the Nuggets this season, posting 12 points and 13 rebounds.
McGee’s impact could be largely felt in the battle of the paint, where Denver dominated the Timberwolves. The Nuggets held a 60-30 points in the paint advantage against the hosts, which features a talented frontcourt player in Karl-Anthony Towns. McGee was also instrumental in helping hold Minnesota to 42.5 percent shooting as he had two blocks and made key defensive plays throughout the game.
Vlatko, Markus shine
With Michael Porter Jr. being rested, Howard and Čančar both got opportunities to play big roles for Denver and the pair notched career highs in scoring.
Howard connected on four threes to score a career-high 15 points. He is continuing to show that he can score at the NBA level when given minutes and his proficiency from downtown allowed the Nuggets to replace some of the scoring production Porter Jr. provides on a nightly basis.
Čančar did some damage of his own from downtown, hitting three shots from behind-the-arc and finishing with a career-high 14. Čančar has been used at times during the season for his defensive IQ on bigger frontcourt players and to make hustle plays, so to see him deliver offensively was impressive. The forward also contributed three boards and two dimes on the night while shooting 5 of 7 overall.
With two games remaining on the season, it is very likely both will continue to see extended playing time and showcase what they can bring.
Man of steel delivers once again
Whether it's Serbian pride or wanting to emphatically lock in on the MVP award, Jokić has been adamant that he would like to finish the season playing all 82 games. As the leader of the Nuggets, he’s earned that right and he continued his monster season with another dominant night against the Timberwolves.
Jokić almost scored a point a minute and outplayed his star counterpart in Towns, who finished the night with 20 points and 11 boards on 6 of 18 shooting. It will be interesting to see if Jokić remains steadfast in wanting to see action in the final two games of the season. In either case, it is always fun to see the league’s best player go to work.