Going into game 54 of the NBA season it is important for the Denver Nuggets to prioritize health first back to backs are always rough. With Denver 4.5 games up on the second-place Memphis Grizzlies in the West the Nuggets made it a propriety to rest four out of their five starters in Sunday night’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Players like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon, and Katavious Caldwell Pope did not make the trip to Minnesota after a long battle with the Atlanta Hawks the night before. It is also important to note that Bones Hyland did not play either he is right in the middle of recent trade rumors. This was arguably one of the Nuggets’ most short-handed nights of the year.
Head coach Mike Malone went with a very unique starting lineup Bruce Brown, Christian Braun, Michel Porter Jr, Vlatko Cancar, and Deandre Jordan. If the Nuggets had any chance to win this game in Minnesota Brown, Braun, and Porter were going to have to really show out. That was not the case as the Timberwolves were able to capitalize on Denver not having their back-to-back MVP on the floor. The Nuggets had run out a different mixture of lineups both bigger and smaller lineups but they could not ever get their offense going. Denver turned the ball over 13 times in just the first half alone combine that with points in the paint and the lack of perimeter defense. This game got out of reach fast as the Nuggets trailed 63-43 going into halftime.
The second half was a little less painful to watch than the first half but Minnesota continued to have its way with the Nuggets. The Timberwolves outscored the Nuggets 65 to 55 in the second half which is not as bad as the first half but it sure felt like it. Denver continued to struggle without any real offensive identity. It is fair to say that the second half was more about just letting the youngsters play. The Nuggets had no answers for Anthony Edwards as he was clearly the best player on the floor all night. While short-handed Denver did as much fighting as they could but they ultimately fell well short losing by a final score of 128-98.
This was not a game the Nuggets were really going all in to win. it is very hard for a team to win on any given night just shooting 24 percent from the 3-point line. This was clearly a game that the Nuggets were just hoping to see some different rotations play together and get out of Minnesota healthy as possible. Nobody can blame Denver for load management every team in the NBA does it. The goal is clear here Championship if the Nuggets want to do that they have to stay as healthy as possible this won’t be the last time they probably do a load management game either.
It was always hard to expect Denver to win in Minnesota without their top players playing. Some good did come out of last night we got to see an extended look at Peyton Watson. It is always a good thing to get to see the youngster out there. It is a long season this loss to the Timberwolves did not hurt the Nuggets any as rest is key to any championship season.