NBA playoffs scores, takeaways: Timberwolves demolish Nuggets in Game 2 road win in Denver

The defending champions are officially on the ropes. Despite playing the first two games of their second-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Denver, the Nuggets trail the series 2-0 after losing Game 2, 106-80. Minnesota earned that Game 2 victory despite the absence of presumptive Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, and their two remaining stars were the catalysts. Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 27 points apiece, but it was Minnesota's defense that really led the way.

Denver scored at least 94 points every 2023 playoff game it played, and was held below triple digits only twice. But the Timberwolves limited the Nuggets to 80 points in Game 2, and the superstar duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray combined to score only 24. It was worse on tape than it was on paper. The Nuggets looked rattled the entire game, complaining to officials and committing several frustration fouls.

The Nuggets lost one home game in the entire 2023 postseason. The Timberwolves have already taken two off of them, and if the Nuggets aren't careful, the next time they return home they'll be cleaning out their lockers for the offseason. Here are the biggest takeaways from Game 2:

Jamal Murray isn't right

Jamal Murray hit two of the best shots of the first-round when he sank the Los Angeles Lakers with game-winners in Games 2 and 5, but it's important to look at the rest of his postseason outside of those shots. Murray is shooting 57-of-152 from the field (37.5%) and 12-of-42 from deep (28.6%). He was scoreless in the first half of Game 1 against Minnesota. He proceeded to shoot 3-of-18 from the floor for eight points in Game 2.

Minnesota's defense obviously deserves the credit for those struggles. Murray is really struggling to deal with all of the size the Timberwolves are throwing at him. Jaden McDaniels is bigger than basically any primary defender he's ever seen. Anthony Edwards and Nickeil Alexander-Walker have both locked him up as well. But we can't ignore the calf injury Murray has been dealing with all postseason. He struggled to even practice leading into this series, and right now, he has no answers whatsoever for all of Minnesota's size.

The Nuggets aren't a traditional superteam. They can't just boost a healthy star's usage up when the other one is injured. Denver's offense is a highly intricate machine that can't sustain the loss of any of its cogs. It all starts with the two-man game between Jokic and Murray. Michael Porter Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Gordon aren't shot-creators. They live off of the looks that Murray and Jokic create. With Murray compromised, suddenly Jokic's life becomes significantly harder because he doesn't have access to all of the pick-and-roll tools he uses to generate good looks for himself. Suddenly, he's forced to become a more one-dimensional post-up player, and that's far easier for Minnesota to defend. Yes, the Timberwolves have the NBA's best defense, but they're also facing an offense that's uniquely ill-equipped to adjust when any of its shot-creators aren't quite themselves. The Nuggets get their offense out of two players. Murray struggling the way he has is making life harder for everyone on the team.

Minnesota's defense starts on the perimeter

Minnesota's best defensive game of the year just came with Rudy Gobert out. That's not a knock on the soon-to-be four-time Defensive Player of the Year. In fact, it creates an important contrast with his former team that helps spell out what makes the Timberwolves so special.

Year after year in Utah, Gobert dragged the Jazz to top-five defensive rankings despite a complete and utter lack of point-of-attack defenders. Opposing guards would get into the paint at will, and Utah's only hope was for Gobert to scare them back out of it. Inevitably, the Jazz would run into a team that could punish that lack of defensive depth. James Harden did it several times by combining his stepback 3-pointer and his incredible floater. He didn't need to beat Gobert at the rim. The Clippers did it with spacing. They put five shooters on the floor and essentially told Gobert that he could either stay at the rim and cover the mistakes his teammates inevitably made at the expense of Terence Mann 3's or contest Mann and leave the rim wide open. Gobert on his own is a very good defense.

But put his elite rim-protection with everything Minnesota has on the perimeter and you suddenly have a great, and perhaps historic, defense. You could argue that McDaniels, Edwards and Alexander-Walker are all better right now than any perimeter defender Gobert ever played with in Utah. They keep ball-handlers away from the rim before they ever meet Gobert, but Gobert's presence allows them to play incredibly aggressively because they know their back is covered. This isn't just a collection of great defensive players. It's a great defensive team with a cohesive identity that, at least on a short-term basis, can withstand the absence of any of its key pieces.

Can the Nuggets find any reliable depth?

The Nuggets caught a scary sight at the end of Game 2 when Reggie Jackson, who was already dealing with an ankle injury, needed to be helped off of the floor. Though he's had a pretty underwhelming postseason, Jackson is Denver's only real shot-creator off of the bench. Christian Braun and Peyton Watson are energy guys and cutters. Justin Holiday only plays to shoot 3's. With Murray hurt as well and Caldwell-Pope also dealing with an injury, the Nuggets are just running out of players.

It's a far cry from last season, when Bruce Brown not only gave the Nuggets an excellent reserve, but a real changeup to throw into any lineup. If Porter Jr. wasn't making 3's, or if Caldwell-Pope or Gordon weren't quite the right defensive matchup for the player they needed to stop, Brown at least gave Michael Malone another look. To an extent, Jeff Green offered similar versatility.

But right now, Denver's starting lineup, which has been the NBA's best five-man unit for the past two years, has no answer for Minnesota, and that's exposing its lack of depth. Malone doesn't have any alternative here. There's no obvious adjustment to fix this. That's what happens when your roster is so heavily geared towards five players. When they aren't humming, the rest of the team can't do much to fix that.

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FINAL: Knicks 121, Pacers 117

It took a whole lot of reviewing and questionable calls on both sides, but the Knicks eventually escape with a 121-117 victory. The Pacers had a chance to take the lead down 118-117 with the shot clock off, but a Myles Turner offensive foul gave the Knicks possession back, and a foul against Jalen Brunson before the ball was inbounded allowed the Knicks to put the game out of reach. The Knicks lead 1-0 in the series after a back-and-forth Game 1.

May 7, 2024, 2:12 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:12 pm EDT
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FINAL: Timberwolves 106, Nuggets 80

It is DEFCON1 here in Denver. The defending champion Nuggets have fallen down 2-0 to the Minnesota Timberwolves with both of those losses coming at home. Now they need to win four out of five in order to survive and advance, and they'll need to win at least two games on the road in Minnesota. Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns led the way with 27 points apiece for the Timberwolves. Aaron Gordon was the only Nugget to reach 20 points.

May 7, 2024, 4:29 AM
May. 07, 2024, 12:29 am EDT
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Reggie Jackson helped to the locker room

Oh boy. This is the absolute last thing Denver could afford. Reggie Jackson just needed to be helped to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury. With Jamal Murray also dealing with a calf injury, Denver needs its backup point guard at full strength. If he's out, Denver just has no alternative to generate any offense against this stifling Minnesota defense.

May 7, 2024, 4:13 AM
May. 07, 2024, 12:13 am EDT
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Jaden McDaniels is back in the game

Note: Jaden McDaniels, who went to the locker room early in the third quarter, is back in the game and looks healthy. That's a relief for Minnesota, who needs him healthy as this series shifts back to their place for the next two games.

May 7, 2024, 4:00 AM
May. 07, 2024, 12:00 am EDT
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After three: Timberwolves 82, Nuggets 60

A 22-point lead isn't technically insurmountable, but it very much looks like Minnesota is about to take a 2-0 lead back home. They are firmly in control of this series even with Rudy Gobert out in Game 2, and now, the Nuggets will have four days to come up with a response before Friday's Game 3.

May 7, 2024, 3:55 AM
May. 06, 2024, 11:55 pm EDT
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Did Anthony Edwards tweak his shoulder?

Anthony Edwards just got called for an offensive foul on review, but more importantly, it looked like he was in a bit of pain after the contact. He's staying in the game after getting worked on from the bench, but given how well Edwards has played, this is the story to watch the rest of the way.

May 7, 2024, 3:50 AM
May. 06, 2024, 11:50 pm EDT
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Minnesota just used its first timeout... in the third quarter

The Nuggets have already used five timeouts. Minnesota hadn't even taken one until just now. How often do you see a team go more than half of a game without using a single timeout?

May 7, 2024, 3:38 AM
May. 06, 2024, 11:38 pm EDT
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The scariest part for Denver...

Usually when you see a blowout of this magnitude, your instinct is that it's coming on unsustainable offense. The Timberwolves have only made eight of their 20 3's. They've only attempted 10 free throws. Sure, 55.4% shooting from the field is impressive, but it's not game-breaking. Everything the Timberwolves are doing tonight can carry over to the next two games in Minnesota. There's nothing unsustainable here. The Timberwolves are just dominating the Nuggets.

May 7, 2024, 3:36 AM
May. 06, 2024, 11:36 pm EDT
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Jaden McDaniels headed to the locker room

It's unclear what exactly happened, but star Minnesota defender Jaden McDaniels went to the locker room. With the Timberwolves up 29, this game is likely safe even with Rudy Gobert out. Still, McDaniels has been so essential defensively on Jamal Murray that getting him back for Game 3 will be essential. We'll update you when we know more about his condition.

May 7, 2024, 3:30 AM
May. 06, 2024, 11:30 pm EDT
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Halftime: Timberwolves 61, Nuggets 35

The Timberwolves lead the Nuggets by 26 at the half. It's the biggest halftime home deficit Denver has ever faced in the postseason. It has been a complete defensive masterclass from Minnesota. Non-Aaron Gordon Nuggets have 20 total points. Denver has turned the ball over nine times. They are completely shaken. The No. 1 defense in the NBA has seemingly solved the unsolvable offense.

May 7, 2024, 3:08 AM
May. 06, 2024, 11:08 pm EDT
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We've never seen anyone do this to the Nuggets

We've seen teams beat the Nuggets in games before. We've never seen anyone shake them like this. The Nuggets have no answers whatsoever. They have 10 points through nearly nine minutes of the second quarter. Anthony Edwards can get wherever he want on the floor. Karl-Anthony Towns has 20 and the Nuggets have no resistance at the rim. There's not a single strategic issue at play here. One team is just bullying the other.

May 7, 2024, 2:58 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:58 pm EDT
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Took him long enough

Jamal Murray's layup in traffic represented the first points he's scored in the first half of the entire series. He's 1-of-12 from the field in the first half of this series, clearly struggling with the size of Jaden McDaniels and all of those extra bodies he's seeing near the rim.

May 7, 2024, 2:47 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:47 pm EDT
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The betting market does not reflect the game we're watching

Just an interesting note. Minnesota is up by 16. It's 36-20. And yet, Vegas has Denver as only a +154 underdog. The live spread is Minnesota -3.5. It just goes to show how much equity Denver has built up with bettors. Even as they're getting blown out, the market trusts them.

May 7, 2024, 2:44 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:44 pm EDT
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The Nuggets look rattled

Denver is usually the most unflappable team in the NBA. Think of the deficits they had to overcome in the first round alone. Nobody shakes the Nuggets. The Timberwolves have seemingly shaken the Nuggets. They're complaining to the officials after every bit of contact. They are really struggling with how big Minnesota is, and it's affecting them mentally as well as physically.

May 7, 2024, 2:40 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:40 pm EDT
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No Rudy? No problem

The Nuggets thought they caught a break when Rudy Gobert was ruled out of this game for the birth of his son. Instead, they trail 28-20 after one quarter. The Timberwolves are doing it on offense, taking advantage of the extra spacing Gobert's absence creates, but Denver's bad habit of starting slowly this postseason is persisting as well.

May 7, 2024, 2:34 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:34 pm EDT
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Michael Malone just got away with one

Take a look at Michael Malone in the screenshot below. He was absolutely fuming at some of the physicality Minnesota has been allowed to get away with, especially on offense. There are officials that would have ejected him for this. He didn't even get called for a technical. Denver got lucky there.

May 7, 2024, 2:30 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:30 pm EDT
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Aaron Gordon thriving

You don't see this one every day. Aaron Gordon has 13 of Denver's first 17 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor. Notably, Rudy Gobert, who is out tonight, is his primary matchup, though that's mostly for help purposes. Gobert would happily allow Gordon to take the two 3's he's made, but getting Gordon going early is only going to help Denver as it tries to tie this series.

May 7, 2024, 2:26 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:26 pm EDT
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Minnesota taking advantage of Rudy Gobert's absence offensively

Obviously the Timberwolves would much prefer having Rudy Gobert for his defense. The advantage of not having him early is that it allows you to play five-out with Karl-Anthony Towns at center. It creates just enough extra room for Anthony Edwards to get to the rim consistently, and Minnesota's offense is off to a nice start.

May 7, 2024, 2:22 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:22 pm EDT
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Jalen Brunson joins a very exclusive club

Oscar Robertson. Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Jalen Brunson. Those are the five players in NBA history that have recorded 30 or more points and five or more assists in five consecutive playoff games. Brunson has now scored 40 or more points in four consecutive playoff games. 

May 7, 2024, 2:18 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:18 pm EDT
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Back to the replay center

I'm getting tired of saying "wow," but there's no other reaction here. Jalen Brunson turns the ball over when he tries to throw the ball off of Tyrese Haliburton, but the Pacers hand it right back on an illegal Myles Turner screen. The Pacers challenge the call, but the challenge fails. The Knicks get possession, and now we likely play the foul game.

May 7, 2024, 2:07 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:07 pm EDT
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Another huge review

Jalen Brunson just dribbled the ball off of Andrew Nembhard's leg with 22.4 seconds remaining, and Tom Thibodeau does not look happy that he had to challenge that to get possession back. The Pacers very nearly just stole a free possession down one. Instead, the Knicks retain it.

May 7, 2024, 2:03 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:03 pm EDT
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Donte DiVincenzo for the lead!

WOW! The Knicks retain possession on an unchallengeable kick-ball that may or may not have actually been kicked, and Donte DiVincenzo pays it off with a 3-pointer to put New York ahead 118-115 with under 40 seconds to play.

May 7, 2024, 2:00 AM
May. 06, 2024, 10:00 pm EDT
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Biggest challenge of the night

Tyrese Haliburton just fouled Jalen Brunson, but thought he got all ball and immediately signaled for a challenge. The Pacers quickly called for the review and in a tie game with 1:51 remaining, the call would undoubtedly be the biggest of the night. The challenge is successful, and Indiana takes the ball on imminent possession.

May 7, 2024, 1:57 AM
May. 06, 2024, 9:57 pm EDT
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Brunson catching fire in the fourth

Jalen Brunson had only four points in the third quarter, but he's up to 13 here in the fourth with over three minutes to go. He's looking for the Tyrese Haliburton matchup through switch-hunts, but he's scoring on whatever the Pacers are throwing at him right now.

May 7, 2024, 1:52 AM
May. 06, 2024, 9:52 pm EDT
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Hart with an unconventional four-point play!

Josh Hart, who hasn't come out of this game yet, just made a layup, got fouled, missed the free-throw, rebounded it himself and then made another layup. Hart's effort tonight is almost singlehandedly keeping the Knicks alive against this ultra-fast Pacers team.

May 7, 2024, 1:46 AM
May. 06, 2024, 9:46 pm EDT
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Watch Indiana's foul count

The Pacers have committed four fouls in less than three minutes to start the fourth quarter. That means that the Knicks, who have quickly cut a nine-point lead down to four, will be in the bonus for the rest of regulation. As Stan Van Gundy points out, this is meaningful not only for possible free-throw points, but also because it slows the game down and gives the exhausted Knicks rest. Indiana, the far deeper team, wants the pace of this game to be as fast as possible.

May 7, 2024, 1:36 AM
May. 06, 2024, 9:36 pm EDT
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T.J. McConnell is killing the Knicks

T.J. McConnell is going to need a nice long rest after Game 1. He's up to 18 points, and he's playing strong full-court defense often on Jalen Brunson. The Knicks have to find an answer for him, because he's been the difference in this one.

May 7, 2024, 1:29 AM
May. 06, 2024, 9:29 pm EDT
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Brunson starts the quarter on the bench

Bold move for the Knicks to start the fourth quarter with Jalen Brunson on the bench. They're trying to sneak him rest where they can, but they're rewarded for it with a quick turnover that leads to two easy Pacers points.

May 7, 2024, 1:26 AM
May. 06, 2024, 9:26 pm EDT
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Now, we're even

Remember how Isaiah Hartenstein drilled that half-court heave to end the second quarter? Well, the Pacers just got their answer with a crazy Myles Turner 3 at the end of the third quarter. It's now 87-82 after three quarters. Both teams have gotten a wild buzzer-beater. Who can make it all the way to the end here in New York?

May 7, 2024, 1:24 AM
May. 06, 2024, 9:24 pm EDT
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Obi Toppin between the legs!

You don't see this one very often in the playoffs. Obi Toppin, playing before his former home crowd at Madison Square Garden, just went between the legs near the end of the third quarter. Rarely will players go for such showmanship in a competitive playoff game. We'll see if the basketball gods approve of that as the game progesses.

May 7, 2024, 1:22 AM
May. 06, 2024, 9:22 pm EDT
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