Rival superstars take contrasting views ahead of biggest game of season

Apr 21, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15)
Apr 21, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (1) and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) / Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most important games of the entire NBA regular season will take place on Wednesday night as the Minnesota Timberwolves travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets for the fourth and final time. The two teams come in with identical 55-24 records as they are tied atop the Western Conference standings.

These teams, of course, faced off in the first round of the playoffs last year with the Nuggets winning in five games. Despite the result, the Timberwolves played well and were encouraged for a young team. They’ve clearly built on that experience, and it has helped them climb to the top of the standings this season in short order. 

The Wolves have also fared well against the Nuggets this year in the regular season winning two of the three matchups in convincing fashion. Minnesota is one of the few teams in the league that is able to give Denver and Nikola Jokić trouble with their monstrous frontcourt that includes Rudy Gobert, Naz Reid, and Karl-Anthony Towns - who is injured, but expected to return before the end of the regular season. 

Virtual single game playoff for the 1 seed

After Wednesday night's showdown, each team will only have two more games remaining in the regular season so this matchup is all but a playoff for the first seed in the west, unless of course, Oklahoma City has something to say about it. They sit one game back of each team currently.

So there’s still a lot to play out in the standings, but the point remains whoever wins this game will have a massive upper hand to get the top seed, and whoever loses will be all but eliminated. Given the magnitude of the stakes and how important home-court advantage would be for each team, it’s fascinating to see the difference in approach from each team's superstar.

Edwards and Jokic take different views

After the Wolves beat the Wizards Tuesday night and Anthony Edwards scored 51 points, he was asked if the team would have energy for Denver on Wednesday, to which he simply replied, “hell yeah”. He went on to say, "I think everyone know what is at stake, I don’t even need to talk about how big it is, everybody know."

Nikola Jokic was also asked about the game after the Nuggets’ victory in Utah, and replied, “I don’t think it’s a really big game. Yes, we’re going to go out there and play to win the game, of course, but I think people are just making their stories that it’s a big game. Hopefully it’s going to be interesting.”

While the quotes are almost comically different it’s easy to see the rationale behind each one. For Jokic and the Nuggets, they’ve been there and done that, winning it all last year. They know that the most important thing is playing well and being healthy at the right time. They’re not afraid to go on the road and they know that they can win anywhere. Until proven otherwise the Nuggets are the team to beat in the West.

On the other hand, the Wolves are an inexperienced team looking to win their first playoff series in 20 years. They’ll need all the help they can get. This is all new to them and to Edwards.

So it makes perfect sense that the upstart wolves would prioritize the top seed and homecourt advantage whereas the defending champion Nuggets seem less interested in securing that seed. It should be a great game and one with massive magnitude as we gear up for the NBA playoffs. I can’t wait.