Will the Nuggets get swept by the Timberwolves? Plus, Jalen Brunson is on fire

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 It’s kind of wild we still don’t know who owns the Timberwolves.

Mile Howl Club

Wolves have Nuggets on tilt

I can’t believe it either. The Wolves are up 2-0 on the defending champion Nuggets after dominating in Denver, winning Game 2 106-80.

Game 1 was an experience, but also a possible fluke, a glitch in the matrix that would be fixed by Michael Malone and Nikola Jokić recalibrating how to attack the Wolves’ defense. Throw in Rudy Gobert missing Game 2 due to the birth of his first child, and things were ripe for being even 1-1 heading back to Minneapolis. Surely we’d see the Wolves feeling good about stealing one in Denver.

Instead the Wolves are heading home and up 2-0 — while the defending champs are officially on unsteady ground. Last night didn’t even take a heroic effort from Anthony Edwards. He had 27 points to match Karl-Anthony Towns’ total. This game was won on defense. Minnesota shut down the vaunted Nuggets again, giving Denver just its third pair of back-to-back games below 100 points all season.

To shut down the Nuggets offense while missing the likely Defensive Player of the Year – and playing on the road, no less – is truly bonkers. This is the coaching staff and the players executing an incredible gameplan to frustrate a team whose poise is supposed to be untouchable. At one point, Jamal Murray threw a heat pack from the bench onto the court in frustration. The Nuggets had been West favorites all season long, but championship pedigree is out the window, and they’ve now officially been thrown to the Wolves.

And none of this is because of an injury. It’s about basketball and how they find themselves halfway to a series loss after two games.

We’ll see if a lower altitude in the next two games gives them a higher chance of getting back into this series.

Overreaction Prediction Recalibration: I had Nuggets in six. After Game 1, it became Wolves in six. My new prediction is Minnesota in five

The Latest From Shams

Mutual interest between Magic, Thompson

After Orlando’s Game 7 loss, the Magic are turning their attention to the offseason and addressing their need for more shooting and scoring, and Orlando can open up in excess of $60 million in cap space this summer.

One name to keep an eye on in the coming months is Klay Thompson, and I’m told there is mutual interest between the Magic and the four-time NBA champion. Thompson will be an unrestricted free agent and has spent his entire career with Golden State. As we’ve previously noted here, contract negotiations between Thompson and the Warriors stalled over salary and length of an extension, with the Warriors offering a two-year deal in the range of $48 million before the season.

Thompson and other veterans around the league are looking at the Magic as a team that can take a major leap around Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner by adding some shooting and scoring in the backcourt.

High-Octane Series

No remix: Knicks-Pacers full of offense

If you were tuning into Game 1 of Knicks–Pacers expecting to see the throwback defensive battles of these two teams in the ‘90s, let me steal a famous Twitter bit from my podcast partner Amin Elhassan. Patrick Ewing and Rik Smits are not walking through that door.

This updated version of Pacers-Knicks is all about offense. That was evident in Game 1, with the Knicks outlasting Indiana 121-117 … in regulation! It might have taken three or four overtimes to get that kind of score from these two in a ’90s playoff game. (They played each other 35 times in the playoffs from 1993 to 2000. Only four times did both teams clear 100.)

This one was definitely filled with officiating controversy, as one would expect. Both teams had challenges and pleas for a review on bad calls during the peak drama of the fourth quarter, but the Knicks just made more plays down the stretch.

Once again, Jalen Brunson was the hero. He had 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the fourth to secure the win, pushing his night to 43 points on 14-of-26 from the field and a perfect 14-of-14 from the line.

Brunson continues to be a killer for the Knicks, and on a historic level. Jerry West holds the record for consecutive 40-point playoff games (six straight). Brunson’s fourth straight 40-piece tied Michael Jordan (1993) and Bernard King (1984) just behind West. The Pacers don’t have the personnel to stop the 27-year-old, so they just have to hope their guys are a little bit better.

In the past, there has been a tension in the air whenever the Knicks need to accomplish something. Watching this game in a bar in Manhattan, that uneasiness was still there, but there was a growing acceptance that things would work out. Maybe that’s because New York’s star showed up and Indiana’s didn’t. The Knicks held Tyrese Haliburton to six points, eight assists and four steals. He had more turnovers (three) than made shots (two). Sure, the Pacers’ offense will probably show up better in future games, but the defense won’t. And that defense gave up 39 points in the fourth, when they needed to show up most.

Overreaction Prediction Recalibration: It’s still Knicks in five, but Brunson is getting 40 in every game and setting that playoff record

Series Previews

Are the No. 1 seeds marching through?

1) Boston Celtics 🍀 versus 4) Cleveland Cavaliers ⚔️

  • Story of the series: While there is likely no Kristaps Porziņģis in this series, Cleveland still must figure out how to score with Boston. Both are great defensive teams, much like the Cavs experienced against Orlando, which is not a good offensive team at all. This regular season, the Celtics were the best offensive team in NBA history.
  • Best player in the series: Jayson Tatum. We saw Donovan Mitchell do some fun stuff to end Games 6 and 7, but Tatum is the All-NBA First Team candidate here.
  • Newest playoff arrival: This version of Evan Mobley. Last year, Mobley looked a little overwhelmed by the moment against the Knicks. This year, Mobley has given Cleveland a massive impact on the floor. He was able to shine with Jarrett Allen out, as well.
  • Key matchup for the Celtics: The backcourt against Darius Garland and Mitchell. Cleveland’s only source of offense comes from these two. Joe Mazzulla will unleash Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White on them.
  • Key matchup for the Cavs: Mobley on Tatum. The wunderkind defensive big man will have his work cut out for him against Tatum’s scoring. If he can keep Tatum to jump shots, he has a chance to slow him down.
  • What’s your heart saying? Celtics in five. | What’s your brain saying? Celtics in four. | Prediction confidence: 9/10

1) Oklahoma City Thunder ⛈️ versus 5) Dallas Mavericks 🏇

  • Story of the series: The two best 25-year-olds in the world are going to battle. There’s a ton of talent, but we’ll focus on what Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luka Dončić do.
  • Best player in the series: It’s Luka … right? Is it Shai? Luka? Shai? Uh … can I be a coward and say both? I’ll go with Luka, but know I’ll look bad with either answer.
  • Newest playoff arrival: Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams. These two were spectacular in the first round and are still so young.
  • Key matchup for the Thunder: Lu Dort on Luka. You are going to see some HEFT thrown around.
  • Key matchup for the Mavericks: Daniel Gafford and Dereck Lively II against Chet Holmgren. These two big men have to make the Thunder wish they had more size.
  • What’s your heart saying? Mavs in seven. | What’s your brain saying? Thunder in seven. | Prediction confidence: 4/10

Bounce Passes

Victor Wembanyama is the first unanimous Rookie of the Year since Karl-Anthony Towns.

You need to rebound in order to win playoff games. Or do you? 🤔 🤔 🤔

Pat Riley wasn’t happy about Jimmy Butler trolling the Celtics.

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • What We Want: Mavericks-Thunder (9:30 p.m. TNT). Like I said: the two best 25-year-olds in the world.
  • Let’s See: Cavaliers-Celtics (7 p.m. TNT). The Cavs will have to prove this is a series in the balance. Full schedule here.

(Top photo:Bart Young / Getty Images )

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