With a playoff berth clinched, the Denver Nuggets can improve their postseason positioning during a road trip that continues Thursday in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Denver (45-24) tipped off its four-game road swing to end its regular season on Tuesday with a 117-112 win in Charlotte. Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic both scored 30 points in the victory, which stopped a brief slump of three losses over the previous four games.
Despite playing the past month without 21.2-point per game scorer Jamal Murray, who sustained a torn ACL on April 12, the Nuggets are locked into a top-four seed in the Western Conference and can improve their standing over these final three games.
Denver trails the third-place Los Angeles Clippers by one game and the second-place Phoenix Suns by three games. The Nuggets took the season series from both teams.
The final, three-game stretch presents Jokic the opportunity to finalize a case for Most Valuable Player. At 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game — while playing in every game this season — the versatile center has been the pillar of Denver’s success.
“This season is probably the best season I’ve had in my life,” Jokic said in his postgame press conference Tuesday. “The team’s been playing good the whole season. We had ups and downs, but mainly, we were headed in the right direction.
“If (winning MVP) happens, it happens,” he added.
In two prior meetings with Minnesota (22-47) — games played back-to-back on Jan. 3 and 5 — Jokic recorded a triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, then followed it up with 35 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
Both were Nuggets wins.
The Timberwolves come into the third and final matchup beginning a three-game homestand to close the regular season. Minnesota is a winner in back-to-back contests, including a 119-100 rout of Detroit on Tuesday in which it led throughout.
With wins in six of their last nine, the Timberwolves are playing their most consistent basketball of the season to close out. They close with three opponents all set to make the playoffs or play-in tournament, going from Denver to Boston and wrapping with Dallas.
“Those three teams would be big wins. Hopefully we can shut them down and do what we’re supposed to do,” said Naz Reid in his postgame press conference on Tuesday. “It’s not like we can’t.”
Minnesota first-year standout Anthony Edwards heads into this final stretch in pursuit of his own individual honor as a leading candidate to win Rookie of the Year.
“I personally want him to win it more than anything,” said Karl-Anthony Towns, who won the same honor in 2016, on Tuesday. “He deserves it. He put the work in, he’s been a tremendous teammate, and he’s put the stats up where it shouldn’t even be a consideration.”
With his 22 points in Detroit, Edwards has scored at least that many in five of the last six games. He is averaging 19 points per game and has played in every outing this season.
–Field Level Media