Timberwolves’ Chris Finch shares harsh reality check amid series meltdown vs. Nuggets

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 13, 2024

The Minnesota Timberwolves had a golden opportunity in front of them when they returned home from their dominant Game 2 win over the reigning champion Denver Nuggets. A 2-0 series lead with back-to-back home games to potentially close out the series. However, Denver flexed their championship might in both Games 3 and 4. The Target Center crowd was hungry for a win, but Minnesota could not deliver.

The two-man game between Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic was back in full force. Even the Wolves’ elite screen navigators have been left helpless once the series came back to Minnesota. Denver’s calculated plan of attack has brought the Nuggets back to life with a chance to take commanding control of the series back home.

With the series evened up at two games apiece, the Timberwolves know they have work to do. Following Game 4’s defeat, Head Coach Chris Finch shared a harsh reality check amid the potential series meltdown.

Chris Finch keeps it honest

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) works around Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) and guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (9) in the third quarter of game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center.
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

When asked postgame about the turning of the series, Finch shared what the Wolves expected coming into a battle with the defending champs.

“We never thought this was going to be a short series. We thought it was going to be a long one.”

Coming off a series sweep in Round One and a hot start in Round Two, some fans were obviously hopeful for another quick series win. However, the Nuggets are a much tougher task than the Phoenix Suns were. The reality is that a win in this series likely meant it was going to come in either six or seven games.

While that is the case, losing consecutive home games in front of a fired-up crowd is still tough to swallow. Now Minnesota is tasked with heading back into Denver for Game 5. The series is now a best of three and two of those games will come in the altitude. Despite the Wolves’ hot start this playoffs, their backs are now up against the wall.

The X’s and O’s behind Minnesota’s meltdown

While fans will feel let down by these most recent Timberwolves’ performances, the Nuggets deserve a lot of credit for their adjustments between Game 2 and Game 3. Denver has targeted weak spots in the Wolves’ stellar defense through a few key actions.

The first action has revitalized Jamal Murray’s role a high-volume shot creator. Using Nikola Jokic as a dribble hand-off machine, the other Nuggets have come to life as well.

With the Wolves’ bigs oftentimes leaning into Jokic when he has the rock, they are out of position to properly hedge the handoff. This has given Denver the ability to get into open space with the primary defender stuck in chase positioning.

Even the Nuggets’ standard pick and roll has found a significant uptick in production. With Karl-Anthony Towns as the primary defender, Denver has happily gone at him frequently. Using Jokic as the screen-setter, Towns’ lack of defensive mobility has reared its ugly head again.

As a result, Minnesota’s defense is forced to shrink the floor and the Nuggets’ role players have knocked down shots. Aaron Gordon scored 27 points on 11-12 shooting on Sunday night. Christian Braun, Justin Holiday, and Reggie Jackson combined for 27 bench points on 8-14 shooting collectively. The Nuggets scored a whopping 115 points despite Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scoring a total of seven points in 67 minutes of action.

The Wolves have some real work to do as they head back to Ball Arena for Game 5 with the series all evened up.