Timberwolves' suffocating defense causing Murray, Nuggets' meltdown

Minnesota's defense proved to be as good as advertised. Even without their defensive anchor Rudy Gobert, the Timberwolves frustrated the Nuggets in every way possible, stealing two games on Denver's home floor to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets - Game Two
Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets - Game Two / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

After stealing Game 1 on the Denver Nuggets' home court, the Minnesota Timberwolves looked to up the score again in Game 2. However, Minnesota big man Rudy Gobert was a late-game scratch after flying home to welcome the birth of his first child.

The three-headed monster of Karl-Anthony Towns, Naz Reid, and Gobert worked wonders in defending Nikola Jokic in Game 1, so it raised concerns about how the Wolves would defend without their defensive anchor.

Those concerns faded quickly as Minnesota opened the game flying all over the floor on the defensive end. The Wolves didn't allow anything easy at the rim, blocking eight shots in the first half. They were also highly disruptive in defending the ball and in the passing lanes, nabbing seven steals and forcing 11 Denver turnovers by halftime. The best defensive team in the league showed out as the Wolves took control with a commanding 61-35 halftime lead.

Minnesota held Jamal Murray and Jokic to 10 points in the first half, the duo's lowest combined point total in a half all season long. The Nuggets were clearly frustrated by the Wolves' hounding defense in the first half. Nuggets' head coach Mike Malone got right in the face of official Mark Davis early in the first quarter after a no-call on the other end.

Shortly after, Denver guard Murray flashed a money gesture at the refs, followed by a disgusting act of throwing a heating pad onto the court toward the feet of Towns. Murray was also seen in Game 1 taunting the opposition after an and-one 3-point shot, where he shot handguns at Towns. Not one of Murray's actions has resulted in a technical foul this series.

Murray scored just 8 points, going 3-of-18 from the floor. Nickeil Alexander-Walker played an outstanding game. He has been lights out from three, but his on-ball defense has been most impressive. He's done a great job getting through screens and preventing switch mismatches in Denver's pick-n-rolls. He has been a pest picking up Murray full court, smiling like a madman while putting the Nuggets point guard through hell.

Sixth Man of the Year, Reid, provided his usual spark off the bench, hitting four triples and stepping up defensively in Gobert's absence against the best basketball player in the world, making Jokic earn everything. The Nuggets shot 35 percent from the field and scored just 80 points total. As the saying goes, defense is undoubtedly proving to win championships. The Wolves should feel extremely confident stealing two games from the defending champions on their home court.

Denver sounded like Minneapolis as Anthony Edwards received "MVP" chants, and "Wolves in 4" chants echoed throughout Ball Arena. With three full days of rest before the next tip-off at the Target Center on Friday night, the Wolves will be back at full strength in front of their home faithful as they look to extend their undefeated playoff record to 7-0.