The Denver Nuggets, one day after defeating a healthy Boston Celtics squad with the best record in the NBA, lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-111 on the second night of a back-to-back on Monday night.

Nikola Jokić scored 24 points but needed 20 shots to do it. Aaron Gordon grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, but most of those were his own misses on a horrid 4-of-18 shooting night. Jamal Murray took a full half to get involved as a scorer and playmaker, though that lasted for just a quarter as the T’Wolves pulled away without enough involvement from Murray.

Anthony Edwards dominated the second half, scoring 29 points on the evening while adding 10 rebounds and five assists. Aaron Gordon struggled to stay in front of Edwards, but it was the bench that allowed Edwards to really get cooking with Bruce Brown, Vlatko Čančar, and Zeke Nnaji all struggling on the defensive end. Denver’s bench, a positive on Sunday night, did little to help tonight when the Nuggets starters needed them most. Bones Hyland provided some two-way play with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and two steals, which was good to see. The rest of the unit left a lot to be desired.

Overall, a poor effort from the Nuggets on a back-to-back, though not entirely unexpected.

Here are my takeaways from Denver’s loss in Minnesota:

The Nuggets could not solve Kyle Anderson

Tonight, the MVP of the game for either team was Kyle Anderson. Not Nikola Jokić or Anthony Edwards. Rudy Gobert or Jamal Murray. Anderson dominated this game on both ends, frustrating the Nuggets offense and making the shots he needed to make.

When the Nuggets had the ball, Anderson guarded Jokić for much of the game. He battled and was physical, maybe getting away with a foul or two but mostly just playing stout defense. Jokić took him to the post several times and made some good plays, but he was often flummoxed by the matchup, an abnormal occurrence this season.

As a result, Rudy Gobert was playing roamer as a helpside defender while loosely guarding Aaron Gordon. The Nuggets power forward didn’t space out to the corner tonight and instead spent much of the evening in the dunker spot, challenging Gobert and several long armed T’Wolves defenders at the rim. Gordon lost that matchup, shooting 4-of-18 from the field and only getting to the free throw line six times. He grabbed a ludicrous 12 offensive rebounds, but he struggled to finish those opportunities in a crowd.

If the Nuggets could have a do-over, they would have game-planned for this better. On the second night of a back-to-back though, it appeared that the T’Wolves surprised the Nuggets with their defensive scheme, providing a nice advantage throughout the game.

Jamal Murray took too much time

It took Jamal Murray a long time to start shooting and running offense tonight.

With just two shots at halftime and only two assists, it was clear from the get go that Murray was taking a passive approach to the matchup. He staggered with the second unit but barely ran any offense with that group, mostly allowing Bones Hyland to handle the bulk of the offense. There was a lot of standing in the corner or quick passes to other guys.

In the second half, Murray scored a quick 10 points to put up a respectable scoring total, but that aggressiveness didn’t manifest into anything during the fourth quarter. He settled for tough twos and chose not to really challenge Minnesota’s defense. It wasn’t a good game.

The Nuggets are currently running a bench trio that includes three guards 6’4″ or shorter with Bones, Murray, and Bruce Brown. The idea is to stagger Murray to help provide more offense, but Murray’s role in those lineups is superfluous at best. He doesn’t run the offense with Bones out there, instead trying to allow Bones enough space to operate. That’s just not a great use of Murray’s skill set.

On the second night of a back-to-back for each of Denver’s other starters, Murray easing himself into this game was probably the wrong call. This was a night when he had a good opportunity to make an imprint on the game and give his teammates a bit of a break. Instead, Murray put much of the game on his teammates’ shoulders. Too much.

Where in the world is Carmen San Diego Christian Braun?


Michael Malone has noted previously that the Nuggets like to stagger a starter. That makes it difficult to utilize 10 players in a rotation. With Jamal Murray back out there tonight, Braun becomes the 10th man and thus is cut out of the rotation outside of brief spot minutes.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Nuggets haven’t proven yet that they can be trusted to put forth a strong defensive effort without Braun out there. At least, the bench hasn’t.

So, I ask again, where is Christian Braun? He played three minutes tonight. Three good minutes! He had a dunk and was +3 in his time on the court, giving the Nuggets some needed energy and athleticism. After a brief first quarter stint though, Braun sat back on the bench and watched as the Nuggets repeatedly imploded on both ends of the floor against a bad team.

I understand the excuse that Denver has only nine spots in their healthy rotation, but Braun hasn’t been the 10th best player on the team, that’s for sure. He’s been better than that and would have absolutely helped the Nuggets on a night when nobody else could match up with Edwards consistently. Braun has more than earned an opportunity, and the fact that his minutes continue to be jerked around isn’t helping his development, nor the team’s ability to win basketball games.

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