The Minnesota Timberwolves Game 1 of the NBA playoffs was a disaster. The team lost 109-80 to the Denver Nuggets, and the game was never close after the home team went up by 10 midway through the second quarter. And in a blowout loss like this Timberwolves-Nuggets game, there is no one to blame other than the team’s three biggest stars, Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert, and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Nuggets were the No. 1 team in the Western Conference in the 2022-23 NBA season, and the Timberwolves got into the NBA playoffs by going 1-1 in the play-in tournament. So, the home team did what it should have done and took Game 1 on its home floor.
However, the Timberwolves could have put up more of a fight. This game was a joke, with the Nuggets barely breaking a sweat while crushing the T’wolves by almost 30. Minnesota can wipe the slate clean and come back strong in Game 2, but they will need much better efforts from the squad’s three stars to have any chance of even winning a game.
3. Anthony Edwards
We are now in Year 3 of the Anthony Edwards Era. This season, he averaged career highs in points (24.6), rebounds (5.8), assists (4.4), field goal percentage (45.9%), and 3-point percentage (36.9%).
True NBA stars aren’t made in the regular season, though. They are born in the postseason, and Edwards needs to step up and become a true star if the Timberwolves have any hope in these NBA playoffs.
In the Timberwolves Game 1 loss, Edwards was 6-of-15 from the field, 1-of-4 from deep, and 5-of-6 from the line for 18 points to go with his two rebounds and five assists. Edwards was the Timberwolves’ best player, but every Nuggets starter and Bruce Brown off the Denver bench outplayed him.
Edwards gets the least blame of the Timberwolves we will blame the most for this Game 1 loss, but it is more clear than ever that unless Edwards takes the team on his back in this series, the team has no shot to win.
2. Rudy Gobert
This past offseason, the Timberwolves gave up four first-round picks, a pick swap, and Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, and Jarred Vanderbilt to get Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz.
The Gobert trade isn’t even a year old, and it already looks like it could go down as one of the worst in NBA history.
Gobert missed the first play-in game after the team suspended him for punching teammate Kyle Anderson in the chest during the team’s final regular season game. He’s back now, but he isn’t making a difference at all.
Gobert is supposed to be one of the top defensive players in the league, yet the Nuggets scored at will against the Timberwolves on Sunday. And the Minnesota defense was actually worst when the French center was on the floor. Gobert was a staggering -28 in plus/minus when in the game, which was 10 points worse than the next-worst Timberwolves player, Mike Conley.
When Gobert’s defense is bad, he’s a complete zero on the basketball court. He did grab a tea high 13 rebounds but only scored eight points in the Timberwolves Game 1 loss.
The Timberwolves-Nuggets series is a massive mismatch because Denver has back-to-back reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the T’wolves don’t. If Rudy Gobert can’t at least slow Jokic down and provide excellent help D on the other Denver scorers, this series will be over quickly.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns
In losses like the Timberwolves-Nuggets Game 1 debacle, the most blame goes to the losing team’s biggest star. That’s Karl-Anthony Towns.
Towns led the team in minutes played at 30 but could only manage 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the floor, a 1-of-7 day from 3, and he also missed both his free throws. It was a terrible game.
One of the biggest reasons the Timberwolves brought in Rudy Gobert this offseason was to take some of the defensive pressure off Towns and allow him to focus on offense. He may have focused on offense in Game 1 of the Timberwolves-Nuggets series, but it didn’t do much good.
If there are many more games like this for Towns in this (now likely) four- or five-game series, it could be his last in Minnesota.
The organization has painted itself in a corner with a Gobert trade, and the only way to get out of it now would be to deal Towns this offseason. That may be a drastic move, but if Towns doesn’t step it up soon, it could be the only move the franchise has left after a disappointing NBA playoffs performance in 2023.
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