What’s the worst possible way to lose an opportunity to advance to the Western Conference Finals?

The Denver Nuggets may have figured it out, losing by 45 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 6 in what may have been the ugliest playoff performance by the Nuggets in franchise history. Actually, there’s no maybe about it. It was statistically the largest margin of defeat the Nuggets have ever had in a playoff game. The Nuggets lost 115-70 tonight, with the 70 points scored being one of the lowest totals in the modern era.

What’s so fascinating about it is that Denver started the game reasonably well on a 9-2 start. Michael Porter Jr. hit a three, Nikola Jokic had a couple buckets, and the Timberwolves were missing their shots. Then, the Timberwolves immediately went on a 20-0 run and never looked back.

Denver’s offense was the biggest issue on the night, because how could it not be when the Nuggets scored only 70 points? Jamal Murray was at the center of the struggles, beginning the game by shooting 1-of-11 from the field with multiple turnovers. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-18 from the field and 2-of-7 from three and didn’t shoot any free throws. Murray hasn’t attempted more than three free throws in any of the games against the Timberwolves, so his entire scoring repertoire is based on getting buckets. He struggled mightily in that regard and appeared flummoxed by the rim protection of Rudy Gobert all night.

And yet, despite Murray’s struggles, the Nuggets had an opportunity to keep the game within range at the end of the half. They cut Minnesota’s lead down to 17 points and just got a stop right at the end of the half. Unfortunately, Aaron Gordon threw away the outlet pass, and the Timberwolves scored on the ensuing possession. Had the Nuggets scored, they would have cut the Timberwolves lead to 14 or 15 points. Instead, the Timberwolves scored, and a 19-point lead felt insurmountable with the way the Nuggets were scoring (or NOT scoring).

Michael Porter Jr. also continued his struggles with just eight points on 3-of-9 from the field and 1-of-6 from three. Porter never had an ounce of daylight on the perimeter when navigating pick and rolls and dribble handoffs, often forcing up contested shots and appearing uncomfortable in every situation. Porter’s defense also took center stage on several occasions as he was left behind on the perimeter by Anthony Edwards or posted up by Karl-Anthony Towns consistently. The Timberwolves attacked him a lot and had success.

The third quarter turned a 19-point deficit into a 25-point deficit. The Nuggets stayed attached for a bit, but the moment the T’Wolves pushed the lead to 30, they pulled their starters. Denver simply couldn’t score. The T’Wolves continued to eat for awhile before pulling their own starters, and Denver’s deficit turned to as many as FIFTY points before the Nuggets ultimately settled at a 45-point margin. It was ghastly.

Nikola Jokic, fresh off of the best performance of his playoff career in Game 5, had a subpar Game 6 with just 22 points, nine rebounds, and two assists. He and Aaron Gordon were the only two players that appeared remotely normal on that end of the floor, but with the Nuggets shooting just 7-of-36 from three-point range (19.4%) it was impossible for Jokic to rack up assist opportunities. Jokic wasn’t exactly on his game, but asking him to pick up the pieces amidst that mess was a bridge too far.

On the other end, the Timberwolves ran solid offense, attacked in transition, outhustled the Nuggets for rebounds, and moved the ball to open three-point shooters consistently. It was a clinic, and it will take a lot for the Nuggets to bounce back from this performance.

Now, the two greatest words in professional sports: Game 7.

Nuggets fans can’t be feeling great about Denver’s chances in a Game 7 after witnessing that performance, but with two days off and the game back in Denver, there will be an opportunity for the Nuggets to reset and refocus.

No, things haven’t gone great in this series. The Nuggets have reached some serious low points, and this looks like another opportunity for a low point if the Nuggets can’t pull it together.

It’s very possible that winning four games in a row was simply a bridge too far for Denver against an elite opponent in Minnesota. The Nuggets have played every other day since Game 3, and the entire roster appeared to be worn down (outside of Joker) by Game 5. Tonight’s Game 6 appeared to be the culmination of that. Perhaps with two days off, the Nuggets will get an opportunity to recover enough to put forth their best effort in Game 7.

Of course, anything can happen in a win-or-go-home environment, and with the way that Anthony Edwards is playing, it’s difficult seeing the Nuggets being in anything other than a war on Sunday. Whether the Nuggets respond to that call remains to be seen.

This is what adversity looks like. Not everything is going to go well at all times. The Nuggets knew that going in, and perhaps they underestimated the Timberwolves initially in Games 1 and 2. Perhaps after winning three games in a row and seemingly taking control of the series in Game 5, the Nuggets thought Minnesota would roll over in Game 6. That of course did not happen.

I know Nikola Jokic will show up in Game 7. He’s proven over and over again to be built for these moments.

Who will join the MVP so the Nuggets can survive and advance? That remains to be seen.

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