Timberwolves most to blame for deflating Game 4 loss to Nuggets

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 13, 2024

Now, it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves’ turn to show that what they’re made of can weather the immense pressure of the NBA Playoffs, particularly when their backs are against the wall.

After going through the first round unscathed against the Phoenix Suns and winning their first two games in the Western Conference semifinals series opposite the Denver Nuggets, the Timberwolves are faced with the problem of getting their momentum back, as they have just allowed the defending champs to even the series.

In Game 4, the Timberwolves suffered a 115-107 loss at the hands of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and company. And with that said, here are some of the key issues that led to Minnesota’s downfall in the fourth game of this second-round date.

The Timberwolves have an Aaron Gordon problem

May 12, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) works around Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (5) in the first quarter of game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
© Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Gordon was, without a doubt, a major problem for the Timberwolves in Game 4. Minnesota head coach Chris Finch even dropped a special mention of the former Arizona Wildcats star after the game, saying that the Timberwolves must be better in defending Gordon, who virtually had his way in Game 4. Whatever Gordon wanted, he got it on offense.

“We gotta go back to guarding him a little more honestly,” said (h/t Dane Moore of the Blue Wire podcast).

Of course, his head coach wouldn’t let the day go by without praising Gordon, who went off for 27 points on 11/12 shooting from the field to go with two 3-pointers, seven boards, and six dimes. On top of those, he also racked up a steal and two blocks in 41 minutes of excellent service on the floor for the Nuggets.

“The shot-making, the play-making, the physicality, the defense on two All-Stars, so much is being asked of him right now,” Nuggets mentor Mike Malone said of Gordon, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).

“What you love about Aaron Gordon since Day 1, when he put on that Nuggets uniform, It’s always been about the Nuggets first. He is truly selfless,” Malone added.

With Gordon torching the Timberwolves, Michael Porter Jr.s cold night has largely gone unnoticed. Porter scored just four points on 2/4 shooting, as the Nuggets seemingly let Gordon capitalize on the leaky defense Minnesota presented to him in the game.

The Timberwolves have indeed an Aaron Gordon problem, and making an effective plan to keep him from hurting them again in Game 5 and beyond is going to be easier said than done. For one, Gordon’s success has been mostly predicated on taking advantage of the gravity of Jokic and Murray on offense.

Game 4 KATastrophe

Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) works around Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) in the first quarter of game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center
© Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Timberwolves star big man Karl-Anthony Towns has been missing of late. After scoring 47 points on 64.3 percent shooting from the field, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks over the first two games of the Nuggets series, Towns has produced just 27 points on 36.0 field goal percentage in Games 3 and 4.

During Sunday’s game, Towns scored 13 points but he had to take 18 attempts from the floor to get there. He was 5/18 overall and 1/4 from behind the arc. That production is far from ideal for the Timberwolves, who can’t just rely on Anthony Edwards to do it all for them. Edwards sizzled for 44 points on 16/25 shooting in Game 4, but does he really need to explode for 50 or 60 points just for the Timberwolves to beat the Nuggets?

“It’s unfortunate that on Mother’s Day I have a shooting performance like that,” Towns said after Game 4. “But it’s the way the game goes. It’s not a fun game sometimes.”

Not fun indeed.