The shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves dropped their fourth consecutive game on Sunday afternoon with a road loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Minnesota had a lead in the second quarter and was within three points early in the third, but never drew closer than six in the final frame as the Nuggets pulled away and held the Wolves at arm’s length in the closing minutes of the game.
The Wolves had two undrafted rookies in the starting lineup in Jordan McLaughlin and Naz Reid and featured another, Kelan Martin, play 30 minutes off the bench and lead the team in scoring. Plus, with Allen Crabbe out for personal reasons, second-round pick Jaylen Nowell played 16 minutes off the bench as well.
With Towns, Russell, Crabbe and Jake Layman all unavailable, Minnesota only played nine players. Unfortunately, foul trouble to the team’s two starters in the frontcourt were a major issue.
In his return to Denver, Juan Hernangomez picked up two personal fouls in the first four minutes of the game, and a third when he returned to the floor in the final moments of the first quarter. While Hernangomez managed to avoid picking up any more fouls for the balance of the game, Reid got into early foul trouble as well and finished with five personals.
There was no depth in the frontcourt, however, with James Johnson coming off the bench as the only player accustomed to functioning as a big man on a regular basis. Martin was forced into action at the 4 with Johnson filling in at the 5, as Hernangomez played just 27 minutes and Reid only 22.
While both teams shot the ball well enough that rebounding wasn’t too much of an issue, but there were some timely boards by the Nuggets in the third quarter with Reid on the bench due to foul trouble.
The Wolves struggled mightily defensively, although they competed throughout the game once again. If nothing else, the team has played harder and appeared more prepared to play — on both ends of the floor — than the pre-trade deadline version of Ryan Saunders’ squad.