The Duel: 2 Teams, 1 Game, 1 Playoff Spot
The final stretch has been intensely close and I could have never imagined that on the final night of the NBA season two teams would face off with the result deciding which one would continue to the playoffs. Sometimes, however, the truth is stranger (better) than fiction. Tomorrow night the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets will come face to face to fight for the final playoff spot. The Nuggets have been hot, winning 8 of their last 10 while the Wolves have be stumbling in the absence of Jimmy Butler. Since his return, Minnesota has improved as expected and it can be argued that with him they would have a much better record and sit closer to the top of the west. However true that may be, the time missed may catch up to the less than synchronized Timberwolves.
As the Nuggets roll into Minnesota it is important to note that Denver has been less than stellar away from home. They have a road record of 15-25 while the Wolves are an outstanding 29-11 at home. Both teams are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to defensive rating and in that regard I lean towards a Minnesota advantage simply because of Tom Thibideau's outdated reputation. On the offensive end these two teams are extremely close but I would lean on the Nuggets to have the edge based solely on every Minnesota game I watched this season. They are an offensive bore.
In matchups like this I like to pick an X factor for each team. A player that, if they play to their full potential, can sway the game. For Minnesota it's not so much a player as it is the utilization of that player. If the Minnesota Timberwolves get him enough shots and run the offense with Karl Anthony Towns as the focal point, they become my favourite to take the W. Jokic can't defend KAT and the Wolves need to exploit that. On the other side it has to be the position that was the biggest question mark coming into this season. Jamal Murray has to be at his best. Since it seems the Nuggets best facilitator is the big white dude in the post, it is important to take the ball sharing duties off of Jokic and spread the wealth while posing a threat from outside. If both show up big we'll have a hell of a game.
No matter how you look at it, the implications alone make this one of the biggest much watch games of the year. I would die to be at Target Center tomorrow night to witness the final pieces of the 2017-18 season falling into place. Though it may not be the best basketball we see all year, it is sure to be a fiery affair and when the dust settles we'll have a clear picture of how the playoffs have taken shape.