The Denver Nuggets (2-0) will look to extend their commanding lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves (0-2) on Friday night. Nikola Jokic is managing a wrist sprain, but he’s probable. Rudy Gobert and Jaylen Nowell are expected to play for Minnesota, although Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid remain out with season-ending injuries.
Check out below for Nuggets vs. Timberwolves predictions, odds, trends, and starting lineups.
Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Prediction
Prediction: Nuggets -2 & Nuggets moneyline
Denver’s offense has expectedly trampled over Minnesota’s defense. The Nuggets own a 121.6 Offensive Rating so far this series and show no signs of slowing down. Per ShotQuality, they achieved 1.17 expected half-court points per possession in Game 1 and 1.14 in Game 2 – both marks would lead the league.
Minnesota simply has no answer to Nikola Jokic. If they allow him to isolate, then Jokic displays all of his tricks for an easy hook shot or layup. If they send help inside, Jokic’s all-time passing ability will find an open three-pointer or an unstoppable cutter. Denver is utilizing this reality in addition to Gobert’s limited mobility by increasing their high pick and roll usage.
During the regular season, Denver had a pick and roll ball screen frequency of 16%, which ranked 28th in the NBA (per ShotQuality). However, that jumped to 26% and 29% in the first two games, respectively. The expected points per possession Denver achieved in both games would have led the league too. In other words, a Nuggets pick and roll is generating absurd efficiency on massive volume.
How can Minnesota even adjust? Rudy Gobert’s flaws are cemented, and Minnesota doesn’t possess an elite screen navigator with Jaden McDaniels out. They could risk sagging towards the paint, but that seems unwise given the numerous lurking elite three-point shooters. I’m not convinced Minnesota will be able to limit Denver’s offense in the slightest, especially with Jamal Murray heating up.
Therefore, the Timberwolves must run an efficient offense in order to keep the game close. However, Denver has held them to a pitiful 96 Offensive Rating despite Minnesota shooting 46.4% on wide open 3PA. The Nuggets faced a 41-point performance from Anthony Edwards last game and still won by 9! Outside of Edwards, there isn’t enough self-creation to compete with this historic Denver offense.
Optimists point towards Karl-Anthony Towns, but his passivity and desire to settle for jumpers doesn’t inspire any confidence. He owns a career regular season line of 23 PPG and 2.7 turnovers per game on a superb 52/39/83 shooting split. However, that plummets to 17.5 PPG and 3.7 turnovers per game on a mediocre 44/35/80 shooting split during the playoffs. It’s a “believe it when I see it” situation on Towns’ ability to dominate in the playoffs.
Overall, Minnesota’s flaws are glaring while Denver is a well-oiled machine. I expect the Nuggets to take Game 3 and eventually sweep the Timberwolves.
Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Betting Odds
Denver enters as a slight two-point favorite, and their -134 moneyline may be a popular parlay addition. For Minnesota’s +115 moneyline to hold a positive expected value, they must win here at least 47% of the time. The Nuggets are 23-7-1 ATS in the last 31 matchups at Minnesota, and the over is 6-2-1 in the last 9 meetings.
- Under is 12-3 in Nuggets last 15 overall
- Under is 11-4-1 in Timberwolves last 16 home games
- Nuggets are 23-7-1 ATS in the last 31 meetings in Minnesota
- Over is 6-2-1 in the last 9 meetings
Which teams will win the game-determining matchups?
Karl-Anthony Towns Aggression & Shot Selection
I mentioned Towns’ struggles above, and I believe his shot selection accounts for a portion of them. This season, 20.1% of his FGA were within three feet of the basket, and 50.7% were outside of ten feet. During this series, those numbers have drastically changed to 7.4% and 62.9%, respectively. He’s spending far too many possessions on the perimeter, and when Towns’ jump shot isn’t falling, he simply shoots more instead of adjusting by attacking the basket. If Minnesota is going to win a game, then it’s imperative that Towns produces a dominant offensive performance.
Jamal Murray Shot-Creation & Efficiency
Murray exploded in Game 2 for 40 points on 13/22 shooting and looked like “Bubble Murray”. When he’s imposing his will off the dribble and hitting threes, Denver’s offense becomes completely unstoppable because Jokic already provides the other three starters with hyper-efficient looks. If Murray can keep up this momentum, then a sweep is extremely likely.
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
Minnesota Timberwolves Starting Lineups
Denver Nuggets Injuries: Nikola Jokic (P), Collin Gillespie (O)
Minnesota Timberwolves Injuries: Rudy Gobert (P), Jaden McDaniels (O), Naz Reid (O), Jaylen Nowell (Q)