On Sunday night, the top-seeded Denver Nuggets defeated the second-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves by scoring 109-80. Jamal Murray had a strong performance in his first playoff game since the 2020 NBA bubble, scoring 24 points and dishing out eight assists.
Michael Porter Jr. scored 18 points to lead Denver to a victory in the first round of the playoffs. In comparison, Nikola Jokic added 13 points, 14 rebounds, and a half dozen assists in 28 minutes of action as Denver ended a losing streak of five games in the opening round of the playoffs.
Anthony Edwards’s 18 points put him in the lead for Minnesota. Karl-Anthony Towns, who had missed 52 games due to a calf injury and was starting to get back into shape this month, missed 10 of his first 12 shots and ended with 11 points.
Since November 19, 2016, the Timberwolves were not held to such low-scoring totals.
After Murray and Porter, two members of Denver’s Big Three, missed the previous two postseasons due to injuries and surgeries, Jokic expressed excitement about seeing how the Nuggets would perform with all three of them healthy and healthy in the starting lineup together. Jokic’s comments came during the Nuggets’ week off.
The response was unequivocal: the three combined for 55 points, 33 rebounds, and 16 assists, with just two total turnovers, as all five of Denver’s starters scored in double digits, along with reserve Bruce Brown, who chipped in 14.
The Nuggets were the only one of four home teams to come out on top on Sunday, as the Bucks, Grizzlies, and Suns all lost to lower seeds despite having the benefit of playing at home in the first round.
Murray made his first appearance postseason since his breakout performance in the 2019 NBA bubble. At that time, he twice scored 50 points against the Jazz while leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals, where LeBron James and the Lakers defeated them. The opener was Murray’s first playoff game since that performance. Eight months later, Murray suffered a tear to his left anterior cruciate ligament, which caused him to miss the Nuggets’ two most recent postseason appearances.
Before the game started, Denver’s head coach Michael Malone noted, “It is sort of weird to think that it has been that long.” “I can’t express how delighted and proud I am for him,” she said. It has not been an easy trip for him, but this year, we have seen Jamal have moments when that is the Jamal Murray we all know and remember seeing.
“He is extremely eager to go back out there, play, and remind people of his capabilities. We are well aware of the signs that He has for us. I want to express how glad I am that our team is not heading into the playoffs with any injuries.
This includes Porter, who was out a year ago after undergoing surgery on his back.
After breaking his right hand punching a wall in the last game of the regular season for the Timberwolves, starting forward Jaden McDaniels, the team’s best perimeter defender, was out of commission.
Before the game began, Malone anticipated that the series would include a degree of chippy play, saying, “I don’t like spicy. Now we go on to the postseason. This is not like the regular season games at all.”
In the third quarter, he got exactly what he wanted when youngster Christian Braun got into a scuffle with Kyle Anderson after Anderson committed a flagrant foul. Murray pointed to the scoreboard as his teammates raced into the melee. It said the Nuggets were up 83, and the Timberwolves were down 58.
It should come as no surprise that the basketball boss for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Tim Connelly, had such wonderful things to say about the Denver Nuggets. Connelly was instrumental in forming the Nuggets’ core group of players before being recruited by the Timberwolves 11 months ago.
“Michael Malone is an excellent choice for the position of head coach. Connelly said during the morning shootaround that the coaching staff is stacked with candidates for head coaching positions. “Without a doubt, Nikola is the finest player in the world… From A to Z, a first-rate company, and outstanding ownership.”
Connelly provided information on Jokic and his colleagues to the coach of the Timberwolves, Chris Finch, who said that “his background on this Is very, very beneficial.”
Timberwolves: Minnesota was the team that gave up the game’s first eight points and the game’s first nine points after halftime. In the first quarter, the Wolves staged a comeback to take the lead, 17-16, but there was no comparable comeback in the third quarter.
Nuggets: Denver built up an 87-58 advantage against Minnesota in the third quarter by outscoring Minnesota 32-14.] Jokic was reinstated into the game with 7:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, and he picked up a flagrant foul, his fifth, at the 6:50 mark when he elbowed Anthony Edwards in the face. The Nuggets were leading by 30 points at the time. After 13 seconds, he was eliminated from contention.