Why Nuggets’ Aaron Gordon will fly solo to Minnesota for Game 6

Tony Nguyen | Denver Nuggets
May 16, 2024

After an embarrassing Game 2 defeat, the Denver Nuggets found themselves down 2-0 and like a team sleepwalking into a shocking sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves. But then they went to dinner, all but Aaron Gordon anyway, and completely turned their second-round series on its head.

Gordon, whose career has been revitalized since arriving in Denver, was the only Nuggets player to miss the team dinner in Minnesota the day before Game 3. While that would probably not be too big of a deal in most cases, the Nuggets demolished the Timberwolves in Game 3, taking their first game of the series in a 27-point road win. The turnaround was so sudden and stark — and it was followed by similarly impressive wins in Games 4 and 5 — that Gordon has now been indefinitely excluded from team dinners and will even be flying alone to Minnesota for Game 6.

The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported on how that dinner before Game 3 has changed pretty much everything for the defending NBA champions.

“We were really just watching Game 4 between the Knicks and Indy,” Reggie Jackson said. “A few people had a glass of wine. We were just honestly chatting, and the conversation was funny, joking around. Everybody was relaxed. Everybody stopped being so tense about how we have to win, or we have to be perfect in our schemes. I think we were just overthinking everything. I think it was just good for us to be around each other and finally breathe.

“We needed to be around each other. We knew what we had to do, and we knew we had something to accomplish. But it was time between the games to breathe and relax and talk about life. That really helped.”

DeAndre Jordan, widely known as one of the most well-liked teammates in the entire NBA, even told Gordon in the locker room after Game 5 (via Amick): “We’ll see you next round (of the playoffs). Sorry, dawg. We’ll bring you some takeout, though.”

Nuggets just one win away from Western Conference Finals

Denver Nuggets player Aaron Gordon trying to dunk over Minnesota Timberwolves player Rudy Gobert

Nikola Jokic proved why he is a three-time NBA MVP last night; the Serbian big man and the Denver Nuggets dominated four-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 40-point, 13-assist masterclass that featured a classic shot-clock-beating Jokic three and even a slam dunk.

The Nuggets will need more of that in Game 6, in addition to continued contributions from Aaron Gordon (18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists in Game 5) and Christian Braun (10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks), especially if Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. aren’t able to get it going offensively. Porter, in particular, struggled in Game 5; he shot 2-for-10 from the field and sat on the bench watching Braun help the Nuggets close the 15-point win out.

Murray, whose extraordinary playoff performances were vital to the Nuggets’ title run last year and in Denver’s five-game series triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round late last month, has yet to dazzle against Minnesota as he has done multiple times in the playoffs so far in his career. Murray, who did not attempt a three-pointer last night, is currently averaging 16.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in the series against Minnesota, which included a dreadful Game 2 in which he threw a heat pack and towel toward the floor.

However, if Jokic lights up Gobert and the Timberwolves like he did in Game 5 again, Murray and Porter’s heroics may not be necessary. The Nuggets and Wolves will play Game 6 in Minneapolis tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. MT.