Nuggets hang on to win clutch divisional battle with undermanned Timberwolves

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves / David Berding/GettyImages

The Nuggets got a big road win in Minnesota on Tuesday night, but it took everything they had to get it. The Wolves were extremely short-handed in this one, missing starters Rudy Gobet and Karl-Anthony Towns, plus key reserve Naz Reid.

On top of missing their entire frontcourt, the Wolves were playing a back-to-back after battling for a win Monday night in Utah. They had their hands full, facing a well-rested and (essentially) fully healthy Nuggets team that has been steamrolling the league since the All-Star break.

Timberwolves are relentless

But this was anything but easy for Denver and a tired, depleted Minnesota team gave them all they could handle, even making them look mortal at times. The Nuggets opened up an 18-point second-half lead before the Wolves came roaring back.

Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels got hot shooting the ball, and the Wolves ratcheted up their defense and actually had Denver looking out of sorts and even lost at times. The Wolves came all the way back to actually lead in the fourth quarter.

Slowing Jokic

Many wondered how they’d attempt to contain Nikola Jokic without any of their big men and the answer was to make him a scorer. Jokic didn’t have a single assist until the fourth quarter - and only finished with two overall.

They forced him to score, which he did, but it did seem to slow down the Nuggets’ beautiful offense. Jokic tallied 35 points and 16 rebounds and Michael Porter Jr. chipped in 24 points, including a number of clutch fourth-quarter shots to eventually pull this one out.

A battle to the end

But the Wolves simply would not quit, and the team didn’t go away, even after it seemed like Denver had put this one on ice. Minnesota fought until the end, continuing to hit threes and foul until they actually got the ball with a chance to tie.

Edwards drove the length of the floor with his defender, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope falling down. Edwards rose up for an uncontested three-pointer from the left elbow that would have tied the game but it bounced off the front rim as the buzzer sounded.

Denver eked out a 115-112 win and moved into first place in the Western Conference. But this game showed that the Wolves are for real, and they are not scared of the Nuggets. If they can get their guys healthy, this could be a scary playoff series.