Wolves’ defense solid even without ‘Eiffel Tower’ — Yokich-Murray neutralized, Minnesota wins second straight over ‘impregnable’ Denver

The “Eiffel Tower” of the game was unable to play due to a family emergency. Still, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ stifling defense was enough to neutralize the Denver Nuggets’ one-two punch of Nikola Jokic and Jermale Murray.

Minnesota’s two wins against the supposedly “impregnable” Denver Nuggets put them in position to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Minnesota won Game 2 of the best-of-seven 2023-2024 National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference semifinals against Denver 106-80, a 26-point blowout, on Sunday at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, USA. Minnesota, which had won Game 1 106-99, swept Game 2 to sweep Games 1 and 2 on the road and return home comfortably for 스포츠토토존 Games 3 and 4. Game 3 will be played on Nov. 11.

Denver is nicknamed the “Mile High City” because it sits at an elevation of 16,000 feet, or about a mile above sea level. With about 20% less air than the surface, it’s a hellhole for visiting teams. In fact, Denver’s home record this season is 33-8, a whopping 80.5% winning percentage. Only the Boston Celtics, at 90.2% (37-4), have a better home record than Denver.

It was defense that allowed Minnesota to overcome the odds and sweep Games 1 and 2 on the road. Minnesota went 2-2 against Denver in four regular-season meetings, winning both games and holding the Nuggets to under 100 points.

Minnesota’s biggest focus on defense has been containing opposing ace Jokic. Every team that plays Denver actively tries to double-team Jokic, and Minnesota didn’t do much of that in Game 1. That’s because they had Rudy Gobert, who is as tall and physical as Jokic.

However, the absence of Kobe, who took maternity leave to attend the birth of his wife before Game 2, seemed to favor Denver.

When the lid was lifted, they were wrong. Even without Gobert, Minnesota was able to double-team Jokic at times, with Nazr Reed, Kyle Anderson, and Karl-Anthony Towns, all of whom are well over 6-foot-10, making it difficult for him. On the night, Jokic came close to a triple-double with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists, but it was a far cry from his usual performance. Additionally, Murray, who is still dealing with a calf injury, struggled mightily on the night with 8 points and 13 rebounds. Frustrated with his lack of success, Murray even threw a hot pack onto the court during the second quarter with the game still in progress.

Minnesota, on the other hand, used solid defense to keep Denver in the game. Led by ace Anthony Edwards, who poured in 27 points, Towns (27 points, 12 rebounds), Reed (14 points, four 3-pointers), and Nikkei Alexander-Walker (14 points, four 3-pointers) neutralized Denver’s defense.

The last time Minnesota reached the Western Conference Finals was during Kevin Garnett’s 2003-2004 season, and after taking down the elusive Denver team in two games, the Timberwolves’ first trip to the Western Conference Finals in 20 years was in sight.

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