The Denver Nuggets wrapped up their final open practice before Game 7 earlier today. Often, the Nuggets run a bit longer in these situations, hoping to iron out every detail, take their time, and wait until Michael Malone and the coaching staff feels as comfortable as possible. That process often takes 20 to 30 minutes, but today, clapping could be heard behind closed doors, and practice wrapped up a bit sooner than usual.

The gym was bustling as the Nuggets, packed into a confined space with just one court, milled about while Michael Porter Jr., Christian Braun, and Malone ultimately gave their interviews on the side. Players and coaches discussed tactics, laughing a little but not a lot. Usually, this wouldn’t be a notable detail, but prior to a Game 7, everything is notable.

There was a similarity to the environment in Game 3, when there wasn’t a ton of smiling but some seriousness about the moment. Of course, not everything was identical.

“It’s a little different,” Michael Malone shared of his message to the team before Game 7 as opposed to before Game 3. “After being down 0-2, everybody thinks the series is over and they had won two in a row in our building, and then we win three in a row before obviously losing that last game.”

The Nuggets went over a variety of things today, from changes the Minnesota Timberwolves made to their defensive coverages, to points of emphasis the Nuggets will push in the win-or-go-home matchup on Sunday.

“We know that in Game 7, every possession matters. There can be no ‘My Bad’s tomorrow. Our discipline, our urgency, our aggression, our physicality all have to be there for 48 minutes.

Physicality continues to be the word of the series for both teams. It’s based in everything the Nuggets and Timberwolves have both tried to accomplish in disrupting the other team’s rhythm. Whether it’s playing body-to-body on defense, setting hard screens on offense, fighting for rebounding position, or driving through and accepting contact, physicality (or a lack thereof) has determined the final score in every single game.

From Games 1 and 2, the Timberwolves mounted physical pressure that disrupted Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and the Nuggets patented two-man game. Both players had to respond in their own ways, and the Nuggets as a team responded with better physicality in Games 3, 4, and 5. They were less bothered by the pressure, finding ways to overcome it. That combined with a slight change in officiating from the first two games helped the Nuggets bounce back. Fouls were called more frequently in the three Nuggets wins, and the tactics that worked for the Timberwolves of pushing the boundaries of what was legal in Games 1 and 2 came back to bite them later on.

In Game 6 though, the Timberwolves recovered. They played with improved discipline, and the Nuggets ended up settling for more three-pointers than ever before. That strategy works better when the team makes shots, but the Nuggets shot 7-of-36 from three (19.4%) and stopped attacking the rim as frequently as they needed to. Not only did the Timberwolves bounce back, they produced such a haymaker that the Nuggets scored 70 points,

“I think both teams have done a good job of making adjustments,” Christian Braun noted after practice on Saturday. “There’s been a difference of physicality each game, and maybe a little bit of how [referees] have called it. That’s just basketball.”

The Nuggets aren’t making excuses. They know that in Game 7, complaining about referees and foul calls and anything of the sort will be a one-way ticket out of the playoffs. They know they have to be better, and they’re confident that they will be better.

“I gotta find a way to integrate myself into the game and really try to — there’s more ways to get yourself going than just open threes,” Michael Porter Jr. shared, “so I’ve gotta look for my shot, look to be aggressive, and look to find the ball on Sunday.”

Porter was dynamic against the Los Angeles Lakers in Denver’s five-game first round series, producing 22.8 points per game on 55.3% from the field and 48.8% from three. Against the Timberwolves, that production has dropped precipitously to 11.3 points per game on 39.7% from the field and 35.3% from three. The Timberwolves have place Jaden McDaniels, their best matchup for Porter, on him with more frequency. That has been a challenge for Porter to navigate, and it’s limited Denver’s second most productive scorer from the first round of the playoffs. The Nuggets could use a Porter breakout game. He has two 20-point performances against the Timberwolves and four single-digit point performances. If that explosive scoring could show up in a big moment tomorrow, it would ease the burden on Denver’s other two stars.

Last to leave the gym today was Jamal Murray, the Nuggets star point guard who’s had as many up-and-down moments in these playoffs as the Tower of Terror at Six Flags. Murray got in his work during practice, but he stayed longer than usual, working on navigating pick and rolls, floaters over seven footers, fallaway midrange jumpers, and spot-up threes. It was one of Murray’s most extensive workouts he’s performed with media present.

Malone shared that Murray was able to go through the entirety of practice and said that he feels great. Who knows how much posturing Malone might do at this point, but he continued:

“He looked very hungry today. He looked like he hadn’t eaten in two days, so hopefully that carries over into tomorrow. I hope he doesn’t eat tomorrow until 6 o’clock PM.”

The Nuggets know how important Murray is to their success tomorrow. It’s self-evident how much he matters. Nikola Jokic, who’s accomplished as much as one player could possibly accomplish in terms of production and efficacy, is merely one player. Murray knows he has to be better. He has to show up, even if a strained calf or elbow are bothering him, because at the moment, he simply hasn’t been good enough.

Fortunately, the Nuggets have been in this situation before. This isn’t new to their core group, even if some of the players around the core have changed.

“The message is simple man: Game 7’s are great. Enjoy it. Me, Jamal, and Nikola have been a part of four of those games in our six years in the playoffs. That’s why you work so hard to get homecourt advantage for some of the best fans in the NBA.”

The Nuggets will come out, try to win the first quarter, and set the tone with their physicality and commitment to the process. Jokic and Murray will be central to that, and if the Nuggets can keep their two-man game on track, everything else becomes far more simple: guard Anthony Edwards as best as you can, make the hustle plays, and work for open shots as often as possible.

The Wolves will of course attempt to do the same, and in a Game 7, anything can happen.

But the factor that may aid the Nuggets more than any other is homecourt advantage. They want the building to be rocking, to feed off of the home crowd, and deliver for a fan base that has willed them to wins before. It’s why the Nuggets worked so hard in the regular season, for this moment right here. The Wolves capitalized on home court in Game 6, recapturing momentum after the Nuggets had worked their way back into the series.

Now, it’s Denver’s turn in Game 7. It’s going to be a war.