Nuggets Finals run validates Minnesota Timberwolves

Anthony Edwards, Nikola Jokic, Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Edwards, Nikola Jokic, Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA Finals will begin next week, and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round playoff opponent will be advancing to the biggest stage in basketball. In their 56-year history, the Denver Nuggets have never made an appearance in the Finals, but that will change soon.

After their sweep of the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, Denver gave themselves more than a week to rest before matching up with either the Celtics or Heat to determine a champion. Led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets are an incredibly compelling team with a high-powered offense. Basketball fans everywhere will be thrilled to watch them compete for a title.

But for Minnesota Timberwolves fans, Denver’s run to the Finals carries a slightly different meaning. While many criticized the Wolves for losing to the Nuggets in five games in round one, the gritty effort Minnesota put forth against the top seed in the West is aging better by the day.

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ effort against the Nuggets is aging very well.

The Nuggets were in a weird spot entering the postseason. They had stumbled a bit down the stretch of the regular season in March and April, with some uncharacteristic losses. They still retained the top spot in the West for the entire second half of the season, but they had some moments that led pundits to believe they could be pretenders in the playoffs rather than true contenders.

As such, some were picking the Timberwolves to give Denver a hard fight in round one. Many analysts picked the game to go to six or seven games, especially before the injuries to Naz Reid and Jaden McDaniels. So it seemed to some to be a disappointment when the Nuggets achieved a gentleman’s sweep and knocked the Wolves out in five games.

But since that first-round series ended, the fact is that Denver has looked like the best team in the league, and it has not been particularly close. They own an 8-2 record in the playoffs since sending the Timberwolves home on April 25, and they stand as the final undefeated team at home in the 2023 playoffs.

The Minnesota Timberwolves gave Denver a tougher fight than any other opponent.

Looking back, it does not seem unreasonable to say that the Timberwolves may have actually presented a bigger challenge to this juggernaut Nuggets team than either of the other two higher-seeded teams they have faced so far. Yes, the Suns took two games off of Denver and tied that series 2-2 through four games, but all four of the Nuggets’ wins against Phoenix came by double digits. In the big picture, they dominated the Suns, and that series was not quite as close as it may have appeared.

Against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, three of the Nuggets’ four wins came by single digits. They were not able to consistently run LA off the floor like they did with Phoenix, but they executed well in crunch time and won every clutch moment. As such, they swept the Lakers and won their sixth straight game headed into the Finals.

Meanwhile, the Timberwolves only had one game against Denver that was not close. After getting blown out in Game 1, Minnesota gritted its teeth and did a surprisingly good job of giving the Nuggets trouble the rest of the way. Their final three losses all came by single digits, and they took Game 4 in overtime with Anthony Edwards’ clutch pull-up three pointer in the closing seconds.

This should leave Wolves fans feeling very good about not only their team’s fight against the potential NBA champions, but also about their chances to excel going forward. If this team can give a championship-caliber team fits now, there is no telling their ceiling once they get back their best defender and sixth man as well.

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