Nuggets-Timberwolves: 5 conclusions from Denver’s Game 3


The Nuggets’ performance in Game 3 was pivotal, showcasing their determination akin to defending their 2023 championship. This dominant display shifted the momentum of the Western Conference semifinals, setting the stage for an intense Game 4.

Nuggets-Timberwolves 5 conclusions from Denver's Game 3
Nuggets-Timberwolves 5 conclusions from Denver’s Game 3

Denver’s victory was defined by commanding leads and a decisive 27-point win, fueled by Jamal Murray’s exceptional performance and accurate shooting. In contrast, the Timberwolves struggled on both offense and defense, suffering their first playoff loss in seven games.

This historic win, the largest margin for a team down 0-2 at home in postseason history, highlighted Denver’s resilience following a challenging Game 2 loss. Here are five key takeaways from the Nuggets‘ impressive 117-90 victory, closing the series gap to 2-1 in favor of Minnesota:

1. Murray in a hurry to respond

The Target Center crowd expressed their displeasure with Jamal Murray right from the start, showing frustration over his on-court presence following his controversial actions in Game 2. Despite narrowly avoiding suspension, Murray was fined by the league for his conduct.

In Game 3, Murray’s exceptional performance was instrumental to the Nuggets‘ victory, representing a significant turnaround from his previous playoff appearances. While he had moments of brilliance against the Lakers, Murray had struggled with inconsistency and inefficiency before this crucial game.

Murray came into Game 3 determined to redeem himself. He adeptly maneuvered through double-teams, made critical shots, and dominated the first half with 18 points out of his total 24, establishing control over the game.

Although Murray’s calf benefited from the rest during the three-day break after Game 2, he was cautious about potential flare-ups heading into Game 4. Despite feeling relatively good before Game 3, Murray noted that his calf tightened up towards the end of the match, highlighting ongoing concerns about his physical condition moving forward.

2. Minnesota makes a return to earth

The playoffs saw the Minnesota Timberwolves reach their peak, displaying historic defensive prowess, Anthony Edwards’ explosive talent, and remarkable depth that overwhelmed opponents like the Suns in the first round and initially challenged the Nuggets in the semifinals.

However, Game 3 served as a reality check for the Wolves, revealing underlying weaknesses despite their overall strength and competitiveness. The team struggled significantly on offense, failing to capitalize on 3-point opportunities and lacking the urgency shown by the Nuggets.

Minnesota was unable to stage a comeback after falling behind by a substantial margin, leading to a noticeable decline in crowd enthusiasm as fans began leaving early in the fourth quarter. Center Karl-Anthony Towns acknowledged the need for improvement, stressing the importance of elevating their performance.

Apart from Towns, the Wolves’ 3-point shooting was abysmal at 5-for-28, and their offensive production was lackluster with just 41 points scored in the first half. Defensively, they allowed the Nuggets too much freedom compared to their impressive victory in Game 2.

Coach Chris Finch acknowledged the team’s shortcomings in decision-making and overall execution on both offense and defense, identifying key areas requiring improvement as they look ahead in the series. This Game 3 setback highlights areas for adjustment and growth to regain competitiveness moving forward.

3. Nuggets solve Timberwolves’ defense with sharp long-range shooting

In the preceding matchup, the Denver Nuggets encountered significant challenges against the Minnesota Timberwolves’ aggressive defensive tactics, disrupting their usual offensive flow and shooting efficiency.

However, Game 3 showcased a remarkable turnaround for the Nuggets. They regained their shooting rhythm, converting nearly half of their 3-point attempts and maintaining an impressive 54% field goal percentage, despite facing the Timberwolves’ strong defensive pressure.

Denver’s success is rooted in their composed and strategic approach, characterized by exceptional ball movement and the ability to capitalize on open scoring opportunities. This cohesive style of play reflects the leadership of Nikola Jokic, renowned for his historic passing ability among big men in basketball.

The stark contrast with their lackluster performance in the previous game underscores the unpredictable nature of playoff dynamics. One game can swiftly shift the series momentum, prompting Nuggets coach Michael Malone to urge caution and emphasize the importance of remaining focused and grounded, regardless of their success in Game.

4. McDaniels’ fouls were a factor

During the game, a critical shift occurred that significantly impacted the Minnesota Timberwolves as swingman Jaden McDaniels encountered early foul trouble, sidelining one of their key defenders. McDaniels’ defensive contributions have been instrumental throughout the series and the entire season.

McDaniels is primarily tasked with effectively containing Jamal Murray, a role he executed well in the first two games by neutralizing Murray’s impact on the court. However, in Game 3, both Murray and McDaniels displayed heightened intensity, resulting in McDaniels accumulating fouls early in the first half.

With McDaniels limited to just seven minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, the Nuggets seized this advantage, establishing a 15-point lead and gaining control over the game’s tempo and momentum. This pivotal development highlighted McDaniels’ significance and its profound impact on the Wolves’ defensive strategy and overall performance during the critical moments of the game.

5. Nuggets regain swagger

The Nuggets’ performance in this full-length game mirrored their championship-winning form from the previous year, evoking memories of their dominance. After a somewhat lackluster start to the 2024 playoffs, they regained their stride in Game 3 against the Wolves.

Despite sweeping the Lakers in the first round, the Nuggets often faced halftime deficits, showcasing resilience by rallying to secure victories. The first two games of the semifinals were disappointing, especially Game 2, where they suffered a 26-point loss and showed signs of discouragement.

Nevertheless, the Nuggets maintained their toughness on the road with an impressive 8-4 record away from home dating back to the previous postseason. Against the Wolves, they embodied the championship mindset of 2023, characterized by fluid ball movement and standout performances from Nikola Jokic (24 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists) and Jamal Murray’s dynamic play off screens.

Coach Michael Malone commended his team’s return to their signature style of play, emphasizing the collective effort that defines “Denver Nuggets basketball.” He highlighted their mental resilience, drawing motivation from past playoff experiences and external skepticism from media pundits. This rejuvenated performance in Game 3 signifies a potential turning point in the series, demonstrating the Nuggets’ ability to elevate their game under pressure.



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