This is it. The whole season comes down to this moment for either the Denver Nuggets or the Minnesota Timberwolves. One team goes on to the Western Conference Finals, the other to the beach. In this case, the beach is the bad one, even if the Nuggets could really use some rest. The winner takes on the Dallas Mavericks for the right to go to the NBA Finals – so without further ado…

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (3-3) at Minnesota Timberwolves (3-3)

When: 6:00 PM MDT

Where: Ball Arena, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy… unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. TNT. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio. NBA League Pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Bring Jamal Murray some cybernetic limbs.

Rival blog: Canis Hoopus

Injury report: Jamal Murray – questionable (calf), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: The MVP vs The Future

Anthony Edwards is a true star in this league at only 22, and his ascendancy to the zeitgeist is almost here. In his way stands the three-time MVP and current defending champion Nikola Jokic. Both men represent the way their teams play. Ant is aggressive, hungry, brash, impetuous – everything you want from a star guard looking to make his imprint on the game with every steal, every shot, every drive to the basket. Jokic is cerebral, punishing, inexorable, a high-quality shot-taker and -maker who has seen everything especially in this series. One of them is going to impose his will on this game. If the Timberwolves can fluster the Nuggets with that defense and unleash Edwards on offense, it’ll be a long night for Denver. If Jokic can cut the Wolves apart with passing and scoring while cleaning up the boards to limit their shots it’s hard to see Denver losing. This is what the playoffs are about: two men leading their respective teams and fighting from the opening tip to the final horn. Everything else is noise. In a make-or-miss league there still has to be someone who can defy odds and surpass what is expected to achieve – or verify – greatness. Regardless of who wins, something great is going to happen tonight.

The thing to remember: It’s probably gonna be ugly.

I agree with Jeff Morton here: it’s the end of a long series, both teams are exhausted, the pressure is immense and little mistakes are made by both teams that snowball into bad play. Denver’s main stars have experience here, they know what Game 7s are like. So does their coach, who remembers well a 90-86 ugly slugfest against the San Antonio Spurs that Denver came out on top of, as well as an even uglier 80-78 win over the Jazz (warning: final sequence below may be traumatic for some). But the goal isn’t to win pretty, it’s just to win – and Denver is set up well to do that with home court (not that it has meant much in this series) as well as the knowledge that comes from having been in this position and succeeding. The Nuggets are battered and bruised, and the Wolves are hoping to shut down the champs one last time. As Rick Flair said: to be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man – and Minnesota will have to come prepared to win as hard and as ugly as Denver will be prepared to do.


The thing to bet: Nuggets Moneyline (-180)

Just win, baby. It doesn’t need to be art, the struggle itself can create a victory that is beautiful. Denver needs to handle its business and win the close-and-late moments, but like I said: don’t go betting for things to work perfectly, just expect the MVP to take care of business and leave the rest to work itself out.