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Nuggets-Timberwolves: 5 takeaways from Denver’s Game 3 answer

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Nuggets-Timberwolves: 5 takeaways from Denver's Game 3 answer
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Jamal Murray rediscovered his groove, as did the Nuggets in Recreation 3.

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MINNEAPOLIS — You possibly can see this type of night time coming from right here to, nicely, Denver.

With their season and 2023 championship protection basically on the road, the Nuggets responded on this surprisingly one-sided Western Convention semifinal Recreation 3 with pressure and conviction. Whether or not or not the collection will take a drastic flip shall be decided Sunday (8 ET, TNT).

However there’s no less than a way of suspense after the Nuggets received Recreation 3 breezily and confirmed loads of flex and, nicely, determined unwillingness to fall three video games down. It was a blowout from the bounce, with the Nuggets conserving a double-digit lead for a lot of the sport and profitable by 27 factors.

There was loads of Jamal Murray and shot-making from the Nuggets and many shoddy stretches at each rims by the Wolves. Because of this, Minnesota misplaced for the primary time in seven video games in these playoffs as their lead on this collection was reduce in half by a dominant and decided Denver response.

It was the most important Recreation 3 margin of victory by a workforce that dropped the primary two video games at residence in postseason historical past, and particularly spectacular coming off a 26-point Recreation 2 loss.

Listed below are 5 takeaways from the Nuggets’ 117-90 win, and a collection that’s now 2-1 Minnesota:


1. Murray in a rush to reply

The Goal Heart followers booed Murray proper from the introductions, primarily as a result of he was truly within the introductions.

Various had been sad that Murray was allowed to play in any respect; he dodged a suspension (however not a superb) from the league workplace for throwing gadgets on the ground in Recreation 2.

With out Murray, the Nuggets don’t win this recreation. That’s as a result of this was the perfect consequence from Murray all through these playoffs. Till Friday, he was largely reckless and inefficient — even within the Laker collection when he hit huge game-deciding jumpers.

Murray was clearly on a mission to vary all that in Recreation 3. Fortunate for him, the three off-days after Recreation 2 helped his sore calf.

Consequently, Murray was frisky from the primary quarter, zipping between double-teams, stepping again for jumpers, getting 18 of his 24 factors by halftime, and taking management of the sport.

Murray now has just one off-day earlier than Recreation 4, so the calf muscle might as soon as once more be a difficulty.

“That is most likely the perfect it’s felt going right into a recreation,” he stated, “However it tightened up a bit on the finish.”

Three days off did wonders for Jamal Murray, who scores 24 factors on 11-for-21 taking pictures in Denver’s 117-90 victory.


2. Minnesota makes a return to earth

Actually, these playoffs represented the perfect the Wolves might supply. Their protection was historic, Anthony Edwards volcanic, and their depth merely wore down the Suns within the first spherical and, via the primary two video games of this semifinal, the Nuggets.

However this was a not-so-welcome-back to normalcy for a workforce that, whereas actually strong and a contender, got here with flaws. And people points haunted the Wolves in Recreation 3, primarily on the offensive finish.

Minnesota couldn’t shoot straight from deep, did not match the Nuggets’ sense of urgency and by no means generated any traction to battle again from its first actual deficit within the playoffs. Moreover, the sellout crowd was by no means an element, and followers started beating site visitors residence midway via the fourth quarter.

“I haven’t seen a workforce win 16 straight within the playoffs,” stated Wolves heart Karl-Anthony Cities. However, he added, “We simply should be a greater model of ourselves. We weren’t tonight.”

Aside from Cities, the Wolves shot 5-for-28 on 3s, scored simply 41 factors within the first half and allowed the Nuggets to roam free offensively — a near-reversal from Minnesota’s decisive Recreation 2 win.

“Our decision-making wasn’t there, basic motion wasn’t there,” stated Wolves coach Chris Finch. “Not a whole lot of good issues on both finish of the ground.”


3. Nuggets crack Wolves’ code with deep taking pictures

A recreation in the past the Nuggets had been utterly flummoxed by the Wolves’ urgent and trapping. It stripped away every little thing Denver does nicely — particularly taking pictures.

That modified abruptly on Friday. The Nuggets’ goal was true all night time; they made almost half of their 3-point photographs and linked on 54% general for the sport, particularly spectacular given the standard of protection normally performed by the Wolves.

The great thing about the Nuggets is their calm and deliberate tempo, fostered by a way of familiarity and skill to seek out the open man. This can be a product of an organically grown workforce — an offense that works like a Swiss timepiece — run by Nikola Jokic, maybe the best passing huge man in historical past.

None of this was evident final Monday when the Nuggets unraveled, shot 35% general and 30% from deep whereas trying nothing just like the workforce that raised the trophy a 12 months in the past.

However that was then. One recreation can change the movement of a collection, and in that sense, the Nuggets aren’t taking an excessive amount of from Recreation 3.

“We’re removed from doing something to have a good time,” stated Nuggets coach Michael Malone.


4. McDaniels’ fouls had been an element

It was a delicate improvement involving a participant who appears to work within the shadows, and it helped the sport get away from the Wolves.

When swingman Jaden McDaniels developed early foul hassle, the Wolves had been stripped of arguably their most essential defender. That’s how a lot McDaniels’ worth has grown, not solely on this collection, however all season, truly.

McDaniels is tasked with being a velocity bump for Murray, and thru two video games he did that job nicely — Murray by no means drew blood from the Wolves. Then got here Friday. Murray introduced the power, and so did McDaniels, although possibly an excessive amount of.

His fouls restricted McDaniels to solely seven first-half minutes, and by then, the Nuggets and Murray had been in management, up 15 factors and cruising.


5. Nuggets regain swagger

This 48-minute efficiency by the Nuggets appeared acquainted. As in, it appeared like final 12 months’s workforce that had few hiccups on the way in which to a championship.

That workforce hadn’t appeared within the 2024 playoffs, till now. Although the Nuggets wanted simply 5 video games to get previous the Lakers within the first spherical, they trailed at halftime of every recreation, then scrambled to win all 4.

The primary two video games on this collection had been forgettable, particularly Recreation 2, when their physique language was foul in a 26-point loss.

The Nuggets had been constant on this respect: they remained powerful on the street. They’re now 8-4, stretching again to final postseason.

So that they reached again for a 2023 throwback and it agreed with them Friday. The ball moved, Jokic went for 24-14-9, Murray bounced off screens and defenders and the Nuggets saved the Wolves on a treadmill.

“That was Denver Nuggets basketball,” Malone stated.

Malone cited his workforce’s rally from a pair of 3-1 deficits within the bubble as proof of its psychological toughness, and in addition spliced collectively chatter of Denver doom over the past three days by TV speak exhibits as motivation.

“Our guys answered the bell,” Malone stated. “They nonetheless imagine.”

* * *

Shaun Powell has lined the NBA for greater than 25 years. You’ll be able to e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and follow him on X.

The views on this web page don’t essentially mirror the views of the NBA, its golf equipment or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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