Nuggets and Timberwolves Battle for Final Playoff Spot in the West
- One playoff spot is left to be determined out West. Who gets in and who gets left out?
- Is Jimmy Butler ready to be unleashed from his minutes restriction to save the day for Minnesota?
- It’s the final night of the NBA regular season. We’ve got all your SU picks for the dozen games on tap
It’s as simple as this: win and you’re in.
That’s the storyline for Wednesday night’s lone playoff spot still up for grabs in the West, as the Denver Nuggets (46-35, 15-25 away) try to chase down the Timberwolves (46-35, 29-11 home) and nab the the eighth seed.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic both powered their teams to this one game showdown with marquee performances on Monday night.
Jokic was absolutely ridiculous in leading the Nuggets to an upset win over the Trail Blazers.
Meanwhile, Towns has emerged as the big man Minnesota envisioned when drafting him 1st overall in 2015. He pumped in 24 points to go along with 18 rebounds over the slumping Grizzlies. Yet somehow, the Wolves found themselves trailing in a game they should have dominated.
Denver Nuggets vs Minnesota Timberwolves Team Stats
|49.1||Points In The Paint||49.2|
|Dec 28||Minnesota||128-125 (OT)||Timberwolves|
Is this formula as simple as Jimmy Butler being the difference for Minnesota? In their two wins, Butler averaged 32 points a game, and Denver won the latest match-up with Jimmy G Buckets on the shelf.
On the other side, Paul Millsap’s wrist injury kept him sidelined in the first two meetings. His return has solidified Denver’s front court, and gives Jokic the freedom to do more of the fun stuff on offense, knowing he’s got a capable teammate doing much of the dirty work on the defensive end.
It would be nice for Minnesota’s other supposed big-name player, Andrew Wiggins, to show up when it matters most. In their loss to Denver, he potted just nine points. In their first win against them this year, he score just seven. He’s averaging just 12 points a game in these match-ups. He also just signed a mega max extension this offseason. Not a great forecast to that deal.
Notable Injuries and Absences
|No Injured Players||No Injured Players|
Straight Up Advice: Timberwolves (117-115)
Denver ranks sixth in scoring at 110 points per game, while Minnesota’s 109.5 average has them in seventh. These teams will get up and down the court.
If your eyes are telling you that the Nuggets just flow better offensively than the Wolves, you’re right. A deeper look shows that Denver ranks seventh in assists per game, while also pounding the offensive glass at 11 a game – good for second in the NBA.
But Denver’s defensive woes are well chronicled as well, particularly their penchant for allowing the second highest field goal percentage from beyond the arc. With these teams so similar in scoring inside the paint (both average close to 50 a contest), making shots from outside will be Minnesota’s edge.
And in closely contested games like this, the best player usually rises to the top. And right now, minutes-restriction Butler (a tag definitely lifted in game 82) is still slightly better than peak Jokic.
Expect Towns and Butler to finally end Minnesota’s 14-year playoff drought in a wild affair that goes down to the wire.
Additional SU Picks (April 11th)
We’re wrapping up the NBA season in style, by offering SU picks for the other 11 games on tap.
|Nets vs Celtics||Celtics|
|Knicks vs Cavaliers||Cavaliers|
|Raptors vs Heat||Heat|
|Wizards vs Magic||Wizards|
|Bucks vs 76ers||Bucks|
|Pistons vs Bulls||Bulls|
|Spurs vs Pelicans||Pelicans|
|Grizzlies vs Thunder||Thunder|
|Lakers vs Clippers||Lakers|
|Jazz vs Trail Blazers||Trail Blazers|
|Rockets vs Kings||Rockets|