Player grades from Timberwolves’ win over Denver Nuggets

Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns grabs a rebound between Denver Nuggets players. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns grabs a rebound between Denver Nuggets players. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night in a game dominated by the Wolves bench unit.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves bench dominate the Denver Nuggets

The Timberwolves came into Tuesday night’s matchup with the Nuggets on a four-game winning streak against Northwest Division opponents. As it turns out, in the fifth game of a six-game road trip, the Nuggets didn’t provide much in the way of resistance.

The Nuggets committed nine turnovers in the first quarter, and while the Wolves didn’t convert the miscues into points frequently enough on the other end, it set the tone for Minnesota’s active defense.

The Wolves’ half-court offense was good enough to build a slight lead, although the Wolves were down by two points when reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic headed to the bench for his first rest of the evening. By the time he returned to the game in the second quarter, the Nuggets trailed by 13 points.

The Timberwolves bench dominated proceedings in the second quarter, keyed by Taurean Prince’s 14 points in the frame as the Wolves put up 39 as a team. The defensive activity level remained high, and the home team led by 18 at halftime.

It was largely more of the same following the break, although when Towns headed to the bench midway through the third quarter, the Nuggets went on a brief run to whittle a lead that had ballooned to 90-62 back down to just a 19-point game.

At the start of the fourth, however, Towns came back in the game while Jokic took a seat. Towns scored seven consecutive points by himself, pushing the lead well north of 20. Then, Malik Beasley finally got hot against his former team, and the lead eventually reached 30 points.

The Nuggets scored at will during garbage time to make the final margin — and their final point total of 115 — look much better than it actually was. Make no mistake, this was an entirely dominant performance by the Timberwolves.

Player grades from Timberwolves’ win over Denver Nuggets

Let’s look at a few player grades from the Wolves’ win.

Karl-Anthony Towns: A

24 points (8-12 FG, 1-3 3P, 7-8 FT), 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, one block

Towns was fantastic throughout, avoiding serious foul trouble and taking advantage of mismatches with regularity.

When Towns had a smaller player on him, he dominated in the post. When Jokic was guarding him, Towns went out to the perimeter and took the Nuggets superstar off the bounce. Towns was efficient and effective in virtually every phase, and helped key the Wolves’ strong defensive performance on the night as well.

Jarred Vanderbilt: A-

18 points (8-12 FG, 2-4 FT), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 19 minutes

Vanderbilt had a great showing against his former team, scoring a quick 10 points in the first quarter.

His activity level was exactly what Wolves fans have come to expect. He set the tone with a pick-pocket of Jokic in the backcourt following a defensive rebound, and continued to display that patented Vando hustle across his 19 minutes. (That’s right — Vanderbilt put up an 18-and-9 in just 19 minutes!)

Vanderbilt gets docked slightly because he missed at least two shots right at the rim that should have been easy makes, and he missed both ends of a trip to the free throw line as well. But this was another strong all-around performance from Vanderbilt.

Anthony Edwards: D

5 points (2-9 FG, 1-6 3P), 2 assists

This was one of Edwards’ quietest games of the season. It was his lowest point total of the year, and only the second time he failed to reach double-figures. The last time Edwards scored five or fewer points in a game? Jan. 22, 2021, when Edwards came off the bench and scored just five points against the Atlanta Hawks in Game No. 14 of his professional career.

The Wolves never really needed Edwards to get rolling, but when he did get chances, he seemed off. Also, in 26 minutes, Edwards failed to record a single rebound or get to the free throw line.

Taurean Prince: A+

23 points (8-12 FG, 6-9 3P, 1-2 FT), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, one block

It would be hard to draw up a better Taurean Prince performance. A 6-of-9 night from beyond the arc feels like it could nearly drag Prince’s 3-point shooting percentage for the season back up to where it’s been for his career.

Prince was catching and shooting with complete confidence, and pitching in on the glass on nearly every possession as well. His aggressiveness is something that wasn’t showing through earlier this season, and anything at all resembling this version of Prince will be a massively valuable piece of the rotation moving forward.

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The Wolves head back out on the road, traveling to Motown to take on the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night.