Jamal Murray Erupts as Nuggets Rout Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 13, 2019

DENVER, CO - MARCH 12: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets dunks the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 12, 2019 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Jamal Murray scored 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting as the Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 133-107 on Tuesday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Karl-Anthony Towns posted 34 points and 10 rebounds for the 32-36 Timberwolves, whose two-game winning streak ended. The Nuggets improved to 44-22.


Denver's Playoff Positioning Still Precarious Despite Win

The Nuggets may have easily dispatched the Timberwolves by 26 points, so attempting to throw any cold water on the victory may seem like a puzzling endeavor.

But there's a few things to keep in mind as Denver closes out its regular season.

First, the Nuggets haven't fared particularly well since Feb. 28, going 2-4. Their losses were by an average of 8.25 points, a number that would have been worse had the Nuggets not outscored the San Antonio Spurs by 15 points in the fourth quarter of their 104-103 loss.

Their lone wins during this stretch were against the 31-37 Los Angeles Lakers (who recently lost five in a row) and the Timberwolves, who are four games under .500 and 9-26 on the road this season.

The Nuggets have endured a few rough patches (a 1-6 run in November, a three-game losing skid in February) before bouncing back well enough to contribute to the Western Conference's second-best record.

But Denver could be hearing some footsteps. The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers are all within 3.5 games of Denver, with the Rockets winning their last nine games.

The Nuggets can go the other way and surpass the Golden State Warriors, who are only one game ahead for the Western Conference lead. However, any more slides can lead to the Nuggets losing potential home-court advantage in the second round or even the first if they move all the way down to No. 5.

Falling into the No. 4 or No. 5 slot likely means a second-round series matchup with the Warriors as opposed to a conference finals tilt, which isn't ideal either.

The third issue is Denver has very few breaks in its last nine games. Five of the Nuggets' nine matchups are on the road and versus teams currently in the top eight of the Western Conference, including Golden State, Houston and Oklahoma City. Home matchups versus the Trail Blazers and seventh-place San Antonio Spurs loom as well.

Denver, of course, has some breathing room thanks to its 2.5-game lead over third-place Houston. It also helps to have an All-Star center with a guard's ball-handling and passing skills in Nikola Jokic, in addition to one of the deepest teams in the league. However, the Nuggets have to put their foot on the gas before entering their nine-game gauntlet to end the season.


What's Next?

Both teams play Thursday. The Nuggets will host the Dallas Mavericks, and the Timberwolves will visit the Utah Jazz.