3 Reasons why the Timberwolves will move on to the Conference Finals

The Wolves may be underdogs according to Vegas, but beating Denver this year is much more achievable than last year.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns - Game Four
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns - Game Four / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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After sweeping the Phoenix Suns in the first round, the Minnesota Timberwolves are slated to face the second-seeded Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Wolves are fresh off their first playoff series since 2004 while the Nuggets are defending champions.

Considering Denver's recent success, it’s easy to see why the Wolves would be considered underdogs in this series. Early odds from DraftKings on Tuesday, April 30 have the Nuggets as the favorites at -240 (70.6% chance to advance), with the Timberwolves at +200 (30.3% chance to advance) to win the series. 

That said, as Nuggets coach Michael Malone indicated after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver knows that beating Minnesota will be a challenge.

The Wolves may be underdogs according to Vegas, but beating Denver this time around is much more achievable than it was a year ago when the Nuggets beat the Wolves 4-1 in the first round. Here are three reasons why the Wolves can win this series:

3. The Timberwolves have defensive options for Jamal Murray

Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are undeniably the catalysts for this Denver Nuggets team.  

Simply put, Jokic is playing like the best player in the world. 

For the Timberwolves, Rudy Gobert has defended like the best defender in the world this season. And yet, throwing the overwhelming favorite for Defensive Player of the Year as the primary matchup for Jokic still won’t be enough to stop the potential MVP.

Jokic has torched the Wolves this year (along with most other teams). In four games against Minnesota this season (Gobert played in three of them), Jokic averaged 33.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per contest.

However, Murray’s performances against the Wolves have been a different story. In his three games against the Wolves, he scored 14, 18, and 20 points and holds a combined plus/minus of minus-21.

The Wolves will have to accept that Jokic will hurt them, but limiting Murray is where the Wolves can make a difference in this series. We saw this in the first round—the Wolves accepted that Durant was going to score in bunches, regardless of the matchup, but Minnesota was able to contain the Suns’ secondary offensive option, Devin Booker.

The Wolves have multiple options they can throw at dynamic guards like Murray and Booker—namely Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaden McDaniels. The success the Wolves have had guarding Murray this season will help Minnesota's chances of slowing Denver’s elite offense, which ranked in the top-five in offensive rating this past season.