Player Ratings: Playoffs Game Three | Denver Nuggets
Wolves sink to a three-game deficit.
It seems like the curtain is all but closed. The devil is wrapping up his slap bass solo and his ghastly minions are beginning their crescendo. The licking flames of a season from hell have only risen in temperature with every passing playoff misstep, and it seems like they’re liable to engulf the entirety of this blasted franchise in the near future. This wasn’t the embarrassment of game one — there was no denying Minnesota’s effort in this one — but it was another hammer-hit of the spikes the Timberwolves franchise stuck in their own eyes. Another indictment of the flawed process that led them to this position.
The game ends 120-111. The Wolves threw just about as much as they could at the Nuggets and found their best efforts swatted away like a lazy porch cat pawing at a fly. The Wolves just didn’t have the juice to give themselves a real shot. Perhaps they never did. They hung around, they scrapped, they tried their asses off, but they are the worse team, with worse depth, worse injury luck, and worse coaching. That’s a steep hill to summit.
And, so it was. Too steep for Minnesota’s fragile shins. They hovered around the mark for most of the evening but Denver found relatively simple ways to escape every trap they attempted to lay. There was a myriad of problems, there always is with this team, but the headliners in this game were the complete inability to stop Denver’s ball hopping and shots dropping and Minnesota’s already depleted bench unit adding absolutely no value. It takes a stringent defense and a deep team to beat the Nuggets and the Wolves scarcely gave a whimper in either category.
There is at least one more chance to find a sliver of redemption, but the playoffs shine a blinding light on a team’s weaknesses and the Wolves have been seared by it. They have to react and make bold moves to escape the light this offseason. Have to. That’s the only way this playoff failure will benefit them.
Mike Conley: 5/10
He’s not really the difference. That doesn’t mean he’s the one making them lose, but it also means he’s not the one making them win. He’s just kind of there, capable of making a few shots and running a sage offense without adding much more in this matchup. On many nights, against many teams, that’s more than enough. They need that adult and that composure and that willingness to play the controller role. However, they’ve just need some more in this series.
This was probably his worst showing of the three games. He missed floaters he normally makes, he miscalculated passes he normally converts in his sleep, and he found it tough to break down Denver’s defense off the dribble. He still had his usual sprinkling of high-IQ dad plays, but he was mostly a passenger on a train to fucking nowhere.
Finished with 12 points (61.4% TS), 2 rebounds and 5 assists in 39 minutes — -6.2 net rating.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker: 7/10
He did his job. It would be nice to get a bit more offensive pop out of him, but he moved the ball well, didn’t force anything, and provided an extra ball-handler who can initiate offense in a pinch. He did his job. His real job, though, is being a fucking pest defensively. A real annoy the shit out of them guy. A slavering hellhound whose lone purpose in life is to pester and prod and make scoring akin to stepping on a fucking Lego.
So, perhaps in an underrated fashion, he did his job. Jamal Murray has been pushing the Wolves into a shallow grave and pissing on their corpse so far in this series, but he had to work harder in this one and as a result he was far less effective. Murray still found some ways to make hay on tough jumpers and he was stellar as a pick-and-roll playmaker, but Minnesota’s heavily discounted version of Jaden McDaniels just did his job.
Finished with 8 points (80% TS) and 2 rebounds in 39 minutes — +5.0 net rating.
Anthony Edwards: 10/10
He is the extinguisher being asked to quell all manner of fire and brimstone. The lighthouse shining out over the flaming volcanoes of franchise purgatory. He’s the caveat that holds together the entire night, the entire series and the entire organization. On a night like this, where he is the only one who looks capable of dragging his team to a win, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him.
He wasn’t without his warts — namely some late-game turnovers and some ill-advised shots throughout proceedings — but this was another extra special playoff performance. He’s building a big fat fucking catalog of those. He sliced Denver’s defense apart with his drives, had a career-high in free throw attempts, made timely bucket after timely bucket, and continued to make spectacular defensive plays when the Wolves needed it most. All of it in huge minutes with Denver’s defense completely and utterly keyed in on him.
Whenever Edwards wasn’t involved, the offense went to mush. Sometimes he was gassed in the corner, other times Minnesota’s other egos tried to assert themselves, and sometimes their horrendously-schemed offense didn’t allow him to do his thing. But he was their only source of goodness, and it’s easy to see how much that means whenever he didn’t have full rein of the offense.
So, as it has been before and it certainly is now, he’s the one. The only one. The kind of player who needs to be the crux of every (very necessary) decision going forward.
Finished with 36 points (62.9% TS), 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in 44 minutes — -6.4 net rating.
Karl-Anthony Towns: 6/10
There’s no denying that he peeled himself off the bottom of the moldy barrel that he had resided on for the first two games and the majority of his playoff career. That’s at least somewhat commendable. Rather than being the gawky pile of vomit, he was able to make some shots around the rim and knock down a couple of jumpers. He wasn’t the untethered mess he usually is in big games and that’s a plus.
It’s also a negative. Because he did those things and he finished with an efficient 27 points and yet his impact on the result was scant. For all of his redemption points, he still had a fistful of brain-dead turnovers and was pretty comfortably the worst defender in either starting lineup Some scoring flurries can’t make up for that. It can’t make up for consistently blowing rotations, failing to react to plays, and slug-trailing out to contest shots.
And that’s the essence of the Towns experience. A lot of sizzle and not a lot of steak.
Finished with 27 points (38.8% TS) and 7 rebounds in 42 minutes — -11.5 net rating.
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