Player Ratings: Playoffs Game One | Denver Nuggets
Wolves get hosed to open up the playoffs.
It felt like getting to the summit of the mountain only to gaze upward and find another alp looming above, higher and more fearsome than the first. That’s what the playoffs are, a grueling push to avoid gulp-worthy drops over and over again. The Minnesota Timberwolves fell in their first attempt to scale the playoff mountain, they might have even injured themselves irreparably, but they will have to strap their hiking boots on and reach for the pinnacle again. That’s what the playoffs are.
The game ends 109-80. It could hardly be more of a faceplant. The excuses were there, of course, the Denver Nuggets have been sitting around for over a week and some of their players have been resting for a while before the regular season even ended — forever accustomed to their altitude-based life — while the Wolves were laboriously weaving their way through the deathly maze of the play-in tournament. They scraped through their last few weeks with a pair of season-defining injuries and the weight of fatigue to deal with. That’s all factual.
Excuses only get you so far up the mountain, though. If the Wolves want to plant their flag at the highest point possible, they’ll need to accept that no meager excuse can wash this performance one away. The Nuggets are the first seed in the brutal Western Conference for a reason, and they wiped the floor with a Wolves team who looked unprepared to launch a battle cry. In every way, it was a bloodbath, and Minnesota did nothing to cauterize their wounds.
And it felt that way from the infant stages of the night. Denver had eight points on the board before the Wolves awoke from their slumber and, despite the Wolves battling for the rest of the first quarter, the script began to write itself. By halftime, Minnesota’s offensive power outages were becoming more frequent and by the end of the third period they had pissed all over themselves with no chance to clean it up. They ended up letting go of the rope defensively as the game slipped away, but it was Minnesota’s inability to run a free-flowing offense or lean into their advantages on that end that doomed them from the off.
The fourth quarter was merely a procession, a chance for Denver to have some fun and find even more of a rhythm, a funeral for the Wolves in front of a raucous throng.
Mike Conley: 4/10
It’s always jarring when even he doesn’t have it. Like a kick in the groin with a steel-toed boot. It’s not that he was demonstratively terrible, he just wasn’t involved enough. He never synced up with his teammates and the squad’s rhythm as a whole the way he almost always does.
He still made a few shots and did so efficiently, but five field goal attempts isn’t enough to stress the needle into moving. He’s not the kind of player who needs a boatload of shots to leave his golden fingerprints on the game — he showed that with some pick-and-roll dimes and a night full of solid defense even when things were falling apart — but this game was crying out for someone to grab the wheel and steer the car back onto the fucking road and he wasn’t that guy.
Finished with 8 points (80% TS), 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 30 minutes — -36.4 net rating.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker: 6/10
Didn’t quite hit the levels of his kinslaying masterclass against the Thunder, but he was still fairly venomous defensively. Jamal Murray got off the chain whenever Alexander-Walker was off the court or cross-matched onto someone else, but the multitalented guard found life hard against Minnesota’s latest wing-stopper.
That’s all he is being asked to do. He’s not the type of scorer to pull them out of the shit-pile that is their offense and he’s not big or bad enough to stifle the flabby fabulousness of Nikola Jokic. The scoreline suggests it mattered little, but he played his role.
Finished with 7 points (50.9% TS) in 24 minutes — -11.0 net rating.
Anthony Edwards: 4/10
Among the Timberwolves’ primary movers, he was probably the best. That’s a low bar, though, a snail’s dick bar. The bar is barely knee-high to a grasshopper and he scarcely cleared it. There was a flurry of buckets in the second and fourth quarters, but he just doesn’t really feel like himself. It could be the ankle or the shoulder or the hand or the fatigue of it all or maybe it’s just playing in this fucking weirdly constructed roster. Whatever it is, it’s hampering him and, more importantly, he’s letting it hamper him.
He needs to be better. For the Timberwolves to even extend this series past the obligatory four games, he needs to be much better. If they are to pull off a six-game miracle, they need him to find his cape and strap it on again.
Finished with 18 points (51% TS), 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 28 minutes — -18.5 net rating.
Karl-Anthony Towns: 0/10
A big fat fucking goose egg would be easier to ingest if it could be written off as an outlier. Anomalies are a part of life. Players have bad nights, even those who have graced All-NBA teams and mingled with the league’s elites. For Towns, though, we’re past that stage. He doesn’t wilt like a dying sunflower in every big game, but his batting average is concerningly low. This was another swing and another miss. The kind of strikeout that genuine franchise pillars just don’t seem to have as regularly as him.
He personified the night as a whole. He didn’t seem composed when he got the ball, not even one time. He panicked with every touch from the get-go; forcing drives, jacking up contested bricks, and getting burned on defense for good measure. Coming out of halftime, with rest on his side and a chance to right the sinking ship, he tossed his crew off the gangplank and then swan-dived into the murky depths along with them. Turnovers, clanked treys, missed free throws and an appalling indifference defensively.
It was a greatest hits catalog of his worst traits. All at the worst time. Again.
Finished with 11 points (34.6% TS), 10 rebounds and 2 assists in 30 minutes — -19.6 net rating.
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