Timberwolves Series

We Got Ourselves a Series. Can the Timberwolves Punch Back?

Timberwolves

Remember the good ole days when every radio show, podcast, and sports talk show in America was saying the Timberwolves were going to sweep the Denver Nuggets? That was fun, wasn’t it? Stephen A. Smith singing the praises of Anthony Edwards, Bill Simmons comparing our defense to the 90s Chicago Bulls, and Kendrick Perkins shouting to the mountain tops that Minnesota was going to win the NBA title. And before you come at me for my last blog about the Timberwolves having what it takes to win an NBA championship this year, let me remind you that I clearly stated that this series is far from over. You are a fool if you didn’t expect the defending champs and best offense in the NBA to punch back in this series. We are in a dog a fight folks. But that is right where we want to be.

Game Three Recap and Thoughts

The hype surrounding the Timberwolves was about as absurd and over the top as it could have possibly been heading into game three of this series. And it probably was warranted after the defensive performance the Wolves displayed in game two on the road without Rudy Gobert. But we were all very naive not to expect the Denver Nuggets to come out guns blazing after being embarrassed on their home floor twice.

Nuggets head coach Mike Malone had his offense working like a well-oiled machine in game three. Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray looked like their usual, dominant, selves hitting tough shots and playing in a rhythm they were not able to find in the first two games. The officiating crew made it clear from the jump that they were not going to let the Timberwolves’ defense play as aggressive as they did in game two, and the team was never able to adjust.

The Wolves were desperately searching for offense all night. Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards came out flat, only shooting a combined 22 shots, and the Wolves were an abysmal 30% from the three-point line. This was a game the Wolves needed Anthony Edwards to take over in the second half, but he did not look like his normal, aggressive self for most of this contest. The Wolves dropped game three in front of a packed Target Center 117-90 in a game that could have all but sealed this series.

Game Four Recap and Thoughts

Despite Anthony Edwards being the best player on the floor for much of this game, the Nuggets offense continued to cook the Wolves. Murray was absolutely unconscious. Jokić was a wizard finding open teammates and hitting every floater imaginable. And Aaron Gordon, according to Rudy Gobert, looked like prime Kobe shooting 11 of 12 from the floor.

Anthony Edwards probably needed a heat pack thrown his way after this one, because he carried the Wolves on his back all night. KAT played an absolutely horrendous game shooting 5 of 18 from the floor, and the rest of the Wolves’ offense wasn’t much better. The Wolves were able to cut the lead down to single digits multiple times throughout the game, but Denver kept them at an arms length all night.

The real gut punch was at the end of the first half. The Wolves cut the lead to seven but not before Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a three-pointer. Then the Wolves tried holding for the final shot down 10, and disaster ensued…

Even with Anthony Edwards setting his new playoff high in points with 44, the Wolves dropped game four 115-107. Just like that, it’s a three-game series heading back to Denver.

It’s Time for a Gut Check

Let’s face reality here. The Denver Nuggets are the defending champs for a reason, and they seemed to have figured out how to counter the Wolves stifling defense. It’s time for Chris Finch and Micah Nori to get in the lab and make some adjustments the rest of the way. Here are my five keys for the Wolves in order to win this series.

#1: KAT Has to Make Shots

Anthony Edwards is sensational, but this offense will go as far as KAT takes them. He has to be smarter on deciding when to post and when to roam the perimeter for threes and shoot within the flow of the offense.

#2: STOP DOUBLING THE JOKER

Jokić is the greatest basketball player on Earth right now. Not because he is the best scorer ever, but because he finds open teammates for easy and open shots. Doubling him is a death sentence because he makes the right pass Every.Single.Time. Let KAT play him one on one, and have Gobert guard Aaron Gordon and roam the paint for help defense. We can live with Jokić scoring 35+ points as long as Denver’s other weapons aren’t raining open layups and threes on us.

#3: Naz and NAW Need to Provide a Spark off the Bench

Both Naz Reid and Nickeil Alexander-Walker have not been the X factors they have been all year long so far in this series. Naz did make 5 of 6 shots in game four but was unplayable for much of the game because of how bad he was on defense. NAW, on the other hand, looked like he was shooting with a lid on the rim in games three and four. He needs to knock down a couple in transition, or within the flow of the offense threes and give the second unit some life when he is in the game.

#4: Kyle Anderson Doesn’t Need to Play Meaningful Minutes

Kyle Anderson has been outrageously bad these last two games. The Wolves were a -34 in the 19 minutes he has played in games three and four, and he has provided absolutely nothing on either offense or defense. It’s time to stick to a seven-man rotation or give Monte Morris some more run with a bigger lineup when Conley is out of the game.

#5 Ramp Up the Defensive Intensity Without Fouling

The refs allowed the Timberwolves defense to basically play prison ball in games one and two. As fun as that was to watch, that’s not how this series is going to be officiated going forward. Yes, there were some questionable foul calls on the Wolves in games three and four, but a lot of the fouls called were more than warranted. The defense has to be disciplined enough to play fast and intense without fouling. That means moving their feet and not hand-checking, and not hacking a guy 55 feet from the basket (*cough cough* KAT!).

This Isn’t Over! Have Some Faith

The NBA playoffs are all about who can make adjustments and weather storms against an opponent. We have taken haymakers from the Nuggets these last two games, and it is time for the Wolves to respond in a big way in game five.

And as fans, enough with the moping, enough with the “classic Minnesota sports” and the “season’s over” bits. This ain’t your daddy’s Timberwolves team. This team has every piece to not only win this series but make some noise the rest of the way. These next few games are going to have ups and downs, and it is going to be one hell of a ride. Keep on Howling Wolves Fans!

Sign up to be in the newsletter gang

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.