With the Denver Nuggets sitting pretty with the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, it’s time to take a look at who they might have the pleasure of welcoming to Ball Arena for Game 1 of their first round matchup on Sunday. That honor will go to either the Minnesota Timberwolves, who lost an overtime thriller to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, or the Oklahoma City Thunder, who got a road win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.
The two teams will clash in the Twin Cities on Friday night to decide who will head to Colorado on the weekend, but who should the Denver Nuggets prefer as a first round dance partner? There are several reasons why Michael Malone’s boys should prefer to play the Timberwolves.
1. Weakened Timberwolves Rotation
The biggest reason the Nuggets faithful should be hoping for the T-Wolves to emerge triumphant at home against the Thunder on Friday is that they would be playing Minnesota at the most opportune time of the season. Yes, Karl-Anthony Towns is back and looking like his usual offensively brilliant and defensively deficient self, but the rest of head coach Chris Finch’s rotation is a shambles.
First off, they lost starting small forward Jaden McDaniels for the playoffs after the 22-year-old allegedly punched a wall in frustration and fractured his right hand. On a team that isn’t exactly known for its defense, McDaniels’ length and defensive prowess will be sorely missed as they attempt to stop the likes of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. on the perimeter. He wasn’t the only Timberwolves player throwing punches when he shouldn’t have though.
Punching a teammate is a bad look, punching a teammate in the middle of a game is even worse, but punching a guy like Kyle Anderson who came from the Greg Poppovich school of basketball is downright shocking. Clearly, there are issues in the locker room and Rudy Gobert is once again not getting along with his teammates. Gobert was suspended for Tuesday’s loss and is also in danger of missing Friday’s contest due to back spasms.
Without Gobert and McDaniels, Nikola Jokic should be able to slice through that Minnesota defense like Pule cheese. Not to mention that Finch’s front court rotation won’t be nearly as effective without big man Naz Reid, who just had surgery to repair a broken wrist. Reid’s ability to stretch the floor allowed Finch to toggle Gobert and KAT in the rotation, a shrewd tactic which is no longer available to him.