Minnesota’s Tuvik to Stop the Jokic of the World

The trend in modern basketball is speed and spacing. In the past, big men used to focus on defense post-ups as their main weapons, but now big men prefer the type that can run even if it is short. It would be even better if it is a big man who can throw a three-point shot. When a big man pulls an opponent big man to the three-point line, “spacing basketball” has become commonplace in which ball handlers and swingmen dig under the empty basket to seek a shot opportunity or create another three-point chance through kick-out passes.

In this regard, the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association (NBA) are composed of players who go against modern basketball trends. Although the existing big man, Carl Anthony Towns, has a shot touch as close to a shooter and is capable of running, defensive center Rudy Gobert joined the Utah Jazz in the 2022-2023 season and even gave up four first-round picks to form “two big.” Minnesota, which had been focusing on the present even while selling out its team’s future, made the playoffs in the 2022-2023 season, but lost the game by meeting the Denver Nuggets with one win and four losses. Denver, which beat Minnesota and went on to win the finals by banking on Nikola Jokic, the best center in the team.

With Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert at the forefront, Minnesota Twins got back to Denver for the first time in a year. It achieved the feat of beating the defending champion by banking on its tactics against the modern basketball trend. The team was doubly happy, as it beat the defending champion in a tightly played Game 7 with three wins and three losses.

Minnesota defeated Denver 98-90 in Game 7 of the 2023-2024 NBA Playoff Western Conference at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado on the 20th to advance to the conference finals.

Minnesota, which dramatically beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, the No. 1 player in the Western Conference, by winning four games to two and joining the Dallas Mavericks, the first team to win the Western Conference. Game 1 of the two teams’ conference finals will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday at Target Center, Minnesota’s home.

It is the first time in 20 years that Minnesota has passed the second round and reached the conference finals since the 2003-2004 season under Kevin Garnett, the “wolf captain” who is considered the best player in the team’s history. The 19th local time that Minnesota confirmed its advance to the conference finals is Garnett’s birthday.
Minnesota, which lost its last regular league game and fell to third place with 56-26 losses, shook off its disappointment with its best performance in the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs, it met the Phoenix Suns, who have Kevin Durant, the best scoring machine in the field, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. Denver, its second-round opponent, was expected to be somewhat inferior to Jokic, who won the MVP of this season’s regular league, but it beat the giant by winning Game 6,7 from 2 wins and 3 losses.

Up until the first half, Denver was in the mood. Denver led 53-38 in the first half. Jokic had a double-double by posting 13 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists in the first half alone, and two-option Jamal Murray scored 24 points in the first half alone. Minnesota, on the other hand, seemed to have had a hard time defending its double team, with ace Anthony Edwards making just four points while making just one out of seven field throws. Early in the third quarter, Murray scored five consecutive points to widen the gap to 20.

Minnesota did not back down. The effect was largely attributable to the fact that Govare and Towns’ “Twin Towers” alternately blocked the Jokic, halving the effect of the Jokic. Edwards came to life while the Jokic was losing power. Edwards, who coordinated his offense with nine points and three assists in the third quarter alone, stole Murray’s ball at the end of the quarter, hit it as it did, and stuffed a delightful slam dunk into the score to make it 63-65 by two points.

Fouls by Towns and Govere continued to accumulate while defending Jokic, the best active big man, but Minnesota even deployed Naz Reid, who received the Six Men of the Year, to try to block Jokic. Govere and Reid dominated the net with eight points each in the fourth quarter, and Edwards took the pass by Reid and scored three points in a quick attack three minutes before the end of the game, solidifying Minnesota’s victory by flying to 92-82 and 10 points. Denver ended the season with a come-from-behind defeat as Jokic poured 14 points into the fourth quarter, but his teammates missed eight of the nine outside shots. Jokic showed the best performance an individual player could make with 34 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists, but the rest of the role players lacked performance to the extent that no one could score double digits except Murray (35 points), a one-two punch. In particular, Michael Porter Jr., who should have played the role of three options after Jokic and Murray, had only seven points and nine rebounds.

On the other hand, for Minnesota, Towns had a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds, and small forward Jaden McDaniels, the best defender in the team, scored 23 points, including four three-point shots. On top of that, six players, including Edwards, 16 points and eight assists, Gobair, 13 points and nine rebounds, Mike Conley, 10 points and eight rebounds, and Naz Reid, 11 points and four rebounds, played evenly.

According to the Associated Press, after the game, Gobert said, “It’s really nice to work with the world’s best teammates to beat a great team and a winning team like Denver.”

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