Timberwolves Roar Back: 5 Takeaways from Minnesota’s Ferocious Game 6 Victor

MINNEAPOLIS — Well, well, the pack has refused to back down!

The Timberwolves weren’t about to tuck tail and slink away, chalking up this playoff clash as a mere learning curve against the defending champions. Not on their watch, not if they can help it.

Nay, there shall be another battle, a winner-takes-all skirmish, with the Nuggets’ repeat hopes hanging precariously in the balance, teetering on the razor’s edge between validation and ruin.

Little in this Western Conference semifinal tussle has followed a predictable path, least of all Thursday night’s emphatic and decisive knockout punch landed squarely by Minnesota. Anthony Edwards and that vaunted defensive unit combined to thrust this series to its precipitous peak.

“Reclaiming our edge, our swagger, was the prime directive,” coach Chris Finch growled.

The Wolves had not endured a three-game swoon all season until this very series. To demand the Nuggets capture four straight — three on hostile territory, no less — may have been a bridge too far after all.

By the fourth quarter, Nikola Jokic and his starting brethren were mere spectators, unceremoniously deposited to the bench as the reserves finished up, affording them a head start on Game 7 preparations.

For roughly 40 of 48 minutes, the Nuggets were outclassed. Murray’s debut was dreadful, a 1-for-10 start from the field. Aaron Gordon failed to torment with his trademark backdoor slams. Michael Porter Jr. remained entrenched in a series-long malaise, netting single digits for the fifth time in six games.

So, here we are.

Five takeaways from the Wolves’ 115-70 demolition, a Game 6 triumph as decisively one-sided as these takeaways:

1. Wolves Strike Swiftly, Savagely

After a 21-point (8-10 FG) detonation helped force Game 7, Jaden McDaniels joins GameTime live via Arena Link.

Spotted a 9-2 deficit after dropping three straight, the Wolves responded with a 20-0 barrage of sheer dominance in the first quarter, seizing the reins and never relenting.

With every make and stop reverberating through Target Center, the Wolves displayed a level of mastery not witnessed since their stunning 26-point Game 2 rout. An answer belated, but better than never.

Edwards fueled the inferno, scorching the Nuggets for 19 of his 27 points in the first half, a symphony of thunderous slams punctuated by a quartet of triples.

But the defining moment came at 9-2, Denver, amidst a hastily called timeout huddle.

“A sense of deja vu crept in, that ‘here we go again’ feeling,” admitted Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. “But we emerged resolute, knowing error was unacceptable.”

The response was vital – to regroup, regain confidence, galvanize the home faithful, and deny the Nuggets an iron grip on the series.

2. KAT Outduels Joker, More or Less

With Jokic’s 40-point demolition still fresh, the Wolves had to get creative in defending the big man. So they returned to basics – deploying Towns as the initial bulwark while letting Rudy Gobert roam and provide auxiliary support.

This time, Joker couldn’t hurt the Wolves as a scorer or catalyst. He mustered a pedestrian 22 points while Minnesota’s rotations stifled passing lanes, allowing teammates few uncontested looks.

This is no typo: Jokic finished with just two assists.

After shooting north of 50% in each of their last three wins, the Nuggets were held to a playoff-low 30% overall on Thursday, a paltry 19% from deep. For Minnesota, it was a return to the rarefied defensive heights of Game 2 – one of the most daunting showings by any team this postseason.

Edwards excelled in shadowing Murray, who bizarrely (and perhaps petulantly) replied “who?” when asked post-game about Edwards’ impact.

As for Jokic, Towns offered: “He’s MVP for a reason. You just try to make him work as hard as possible, never make it easy. Go out there with determination and effort.”

Edwards took it a step further: “His ass stayed out of foul trouble. I told (Towns), if you foul, we lose.”

3. Ant Falls, Rises, Relief Reigns

His night’s work was largely complete – staking the Wolves to a commanding lead, electrifying the crowd, delivering the kind of two-way tour de force we’ve seen this postseason.

Then, splat. Edwards took an unsettling fall in the third quarter, lying face-down in ominous stillness for what felt like an eternity.

A hush blanketed the arena, but two axioms applied: First, if teammates don’t beckon medical personnel, he’s likely OK. Second, this is Anthony Edwards – as durable as they come, rivaling even his supernatural hops.

He received a standing ovation upon gingerly making his way to the bench nursing a sore tailbone, and another when he promptly re-entered the fray.

“I’m used to falling like that in football when I had pads,” remarked Edwards, who played the sport until middle school before dedicating himself fully to hoops. “No pads this time, so I felt that one.”

4. The Conley Catalyst

Mike Conley’s return from injury restores balance to the Timberwolves’ rotations.

When he awoke Thursday, Mike Conley could finally move in ways the previous day prohibited.

“Couldn’t walk two days ago,” Conley lamented. “Couldn’t move at all.”

A balky calf sidelined Conley for Game 5 after he experienced warmup pain. His availability for Game 6 was tenuous until, as he put it: “I had to find a way.”

So he rejoined the fray, and teammates/coaches agreed the Wolves’ resurgence was no coincidence.

Edwards: “Mike Conley. That’s why we won.”

Finch: “He’s critical to everything we do.”

Conley, laughing: “It was a team effort. We won by 45. I don’t make that much difference.”

Well, Conley’s savvy, leadership and steadying hand were pivotal in an elimination setting; his calming presence uplifts this team. Plus, he moved well: 31 minutes, 13 points, five dimes – all while sparing Edwards excessive playmaking duties.

Still, Conley harbored initial doubts. He’d witnessed too many players miss extended time with similar injuries.

“It’s a tough one when you’re talking the calf and Achilles,” he said.

5. McDaniels Delivers Two-Way Dominance

While the Wolves have come to expect McDaniels’ defensive mastery, Thursday saw him equally impactful on offense – precisely when Minnesota is most dangerous.

“He’s the X-factor,” proclaimed Edwards. “When Jaden plays well, I feel nobody can beat us.”

McDaniels went 8-for-10 for 21 points, forcing Denver’s defensive respect by burying three of five triple tries.

Porter ended up with just 8 points thanks to McDaniels’ hounding, with Murray limited to 10 at times.

“We need to see that go down,” said Finch of McDaniels’ outside stroke. “When it does for Jaden, we know we’re playing the right way.”

When the Wolves can rely on a third 20-point scorer, they reach their apogee – increasing the likelihood of cracking 100 points while their defense stifles foes.

All those ingredients coalesced Thursday, yielding an inevitable result…

Game 7.

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