The Timberwolves Erased A 20-Point Deficit To Stun The Nuggets In Game 7

The Minnesota Timberwolves are headed to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years after pulling off the biggest Game 7 comeback in NBA history, erasing a 15-point halftime deficit (and 20-point second half deficit) to take down the defending champs at home in a 98-90 win.

Early on, the Wolves were once again looking very active defensively, picking up where they left off on that end in Game 6, and while neither team was shooting it well, Minnesota was able to get to the rim and take a small advantage.

Denver would start to get going as Nikola Jokic looked to get his teammates involved early as Minnesota continued their approach from Game 6 of doubling him. Most importantly, Jamal Murray started to find his shooting stroke, hitting three from downtown in the first quarter as he racked up 13 points to give Denver a 5-point lead after 12 minutes.

The Nuggets onslaught continued to start the second, pushing the lead out to 11 and forcing a Wolves timeout two minutes in as their offense was struggling mightily with Denver’s doubling at the point, with crisp rotations behind it.

The lead would grow to as many as 13, but Minnesota started to settle in as the game slowed to a crawl thanks to foul trouble for the Nuggets. Denver’s strategy of switching smalls onto Rudy Gobert worked to gum up the Wolves offensively for a bit, but Gobert picked up three quick fouls on Denver guards and got Minnesota into the bonus with more than 8 minutes left in the second quarter. As quickly as the lead got down to five, the Nuggets pushed it back to 14 thanks to a flurry from Murray, as he looked significantly better than he did in Game 6.

Karl-Anthony Towns did his best to keep Minnesota within reach, scoring 13 in the half, as he and Jaden McDaniels (10 points) were just about the only Wolves to show up for the first 24 minutes.

By halftime, Denver had extended their lead to a game-high 15 thanks to one last flurry to close the second and there were some big adjustments needed from Minnesota to get back into the game.

The Nuggets would open up a 20-point advantage early in the third, as the onslaught continued on both ends of the floor. But with the game looking like it would get put to bed early, Minnesota finally got the big run they needed, cutting the deficit to just one going into the fourth quarter.

The Wolves ratcheted up their defensive pressure to force turnovers and got the Nuggets to start settling for jumpers again without the ball touching the paint first to put Minnesota in rotation. Towns set the tone on both ends, and Anthony Edwards finally woke up thanks to getting some looks in transition and then saw a jumper fall with a stepback three to end the quarter.

Minnesota took its first lead since the early first quarter on the first possession of the fourth quarter, 68-67. From there, the Wolves would get the lead up to before Jokic finally got an open three to fall after missing his first seven.

And then, Rudy Gobert hit a fading midrange shot to beat the shot clock buzzer, offering an indication that this might just be the Wolves night.

The two teams traded punches for middle portion of the fourth, but the Wolves opened up a 10-point advantage with three minutes to play thanks to some tremendous two-way play by Naz Reid and a big three from Edwards.

Denver would cut the lead down to five late, but a Towns putback dunk ended the threat and sent the Wolves to the conference finals.

It was a truly stunning second half comeback from Minnesota, as it looked as though Denver took their foot off the gas once they got up 20, seemingly expecting the Wolves to roll over. Minnesota never did that and just kept chipping away at the lead, and once they got rolling the Nuggets were just not able to find their level again. Denver’s star duo had 69 combined points, but they got very little in the way of support, as no one else reached double figures. Jokic and Murray also settled for perimeter jumpers far too often during the Wolves big run in the third quarter, and they lost their rhythm as an offense — and let Minnesota get out and run in transition.

For the Wolves, it is the kind of performance that gives a team the confidence they can win a championship. Edwards, who was a no-show in the first half with four points and was completely taken out of his game by Denver’s doubling and pressure, came alive in the second half to finish with 16 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, but did his best work on the defensive end where he gave Murray fits. McDaniels continued his terrific play from Game 6 with 21 points, and Mike Conley hit three timely threes. However, it was the frontcourt that was the story of Game 7, with Towns leading the way with 23 points and 11 rebounds, Gobert giving them 13 and nine, and Reid adding 11 points off the bench, most of which came in the fourth quarter.

Now, the Wolves will face Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and the Mavs in the next round, who present a very challenge to what they faced with the Nuggets. There will be some adjustments to be made and lessons to be learned from this seven-game grind, but Minnesota should absolutely have full belief this group can win a title after an all-time Game 7 comeback.

For Denver, they’ll head into the offseason needing to assess their roster around their stars. There was an immense burden placed on Murray and Jokic in this series, and while I’m not sure they’ll make any huge changes, they will need to at least explore opportunities for some rotational upgrades to try and make a run at another title next year.