NBA Odds, News & Notes: Wolves Make Game 7 History in Denver

Anthony Edwards & Co. erased a 15-point halftime deficit in Game 7 to end the Nuggets' title defense and book their spot in the Western Conference Finals. That historic win highlights our NBA odds, news, and notes below.

Douglas Farmer - Betting Analyst at Covers
Douglas Farmer • Betting Analyst
May 20, 2024 • 16:30 ET • 4 min read
Anthony Edwards Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves NBA
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

How was your Sunday? Did two upsets in two Game 7s satisfy you enough that you can go 48 whole hours without an NBA game?

If that's the price we, as a collective basketball-loving community, needed to pay to see the high-paced Indiana Pacers clash with the No. 2 defense in the regular season, so be it. If that is the price, we as perpetual fans of blossoming stars, needed to pay to see the Minnesota Timberwolves and Anthony Edwards mount a historical comeback on the road against the defending champions, it would have been a bargain at twice the price.

How did Indiana and Minnesota get that done? Largely in the same way the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics advanced. Let’s talk about depth, perhaps the most underappreciated piece of roster construction in the NBA.

Denver dethroned by depth disparity

The Denver Nuggets arguably have the best starting five in the NBA, bordering on inarguably when it's entirely healthy, but they also might have had the worst bench among contenders.

That wear caught up to Denver on Sunday night. Nikola Jokic played 47 minutes. Among the starters, only Michael Porter Jr. played fewer than 40 minutes. Even when Aaron Gordon had five fouls for the final 7:23 of the game — his fifth an egregious showing of immaturity from a veteran, fouling Jaden McDaniels from behind out of frustration after giving up a sloppy turnover — the Nuggets had no choice but to play Gordon the rest of the way.

Gordon did not log another rebound or shot attempt, playing a bit more timidly than usual due to that fifth foul.

Compare that to how the Minnesota Timberwolves handled Karl-Anthony Towns picking up his fifth foul with 6:57 to go, subbing him out for more than four minutes, and turning to Naz Reid. The Sixth Man of the Year blocked two shots, grabbed two offensive rebounds and three total, scored six points, and handed out one assist in that stretch. When Rudy Gobert fouled out with 2:05 remaining, Towns returned.

Only McDaniels and Anthony Edwards played 40 or more minutes for Minnesota, the rotation buttressed by trusting Reid (22 minutes) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17). Even when rotations shorten in the playoffs, the need to have both a capable wing substitute and a big substitute can determine a series.

The same can be said of Game 7 between the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks, to a more absurd extent given how few Knicks could still stand upright by the end of the series. Would they have had a chance once three starters were either out or clearly compromised if they had a better bench? Probably not, but it would have at least remained competitive.

Meanwhile, the Pacers had four pieces of their bench involved, part of how their up-tempo offense manages to thrive. Their advantage will lessen, perhaps disappear entirely, against the Boston Celtics, part of how Boston was the best team in the NBA all season.

The Timberwolves will also have less of an edge off the bench against the Mavericks, who bring in Dereck Lively II and Josh Green without hesitation, giving Dallas the added big and the added wing that Denver so sorely lacked.

This Week's NBA best bets

Indiana Pacers vs. Boston Celtics (Tuesday, May 21)

Tyrese Haliburton continues to shoot from beyond the arc at a rate disproportionate to what made him so successful in the regular season. Back then, only 51% of his shots came from deep. His willingness and ability to get into the lane and attack the rim drew defenders, creating openings for him to set up teammates for buckets.

Through two rounds of these playoffs, 63.4% of Haliburton’s shots have been from three. In Sunday’s Game 7, 12 of his 17 looks were from long range. Making six of those 3-pointers justified the looks, but the time Haliburton is spending along the perimeter directly leads to him handing out only six assists despite the team as a whole shooting well.

It will be even harder to drive against Boston, and the looks for teammates will be even more contested. Until this prop moves to 7.5 and possibly until it moves to 7, there will be value in betting Under 8.5 assists for Haliburton.

Best bet: Tyrese Haliburton Under 8.5 assists (-125 at FanDuel)

Dallas Mavericks vs Minnesota Timberwolves (Wednesday, May 22)

The exhaustion of a seven-game series would be one thing, but Minnesota also needs to recover from the added fatigue from playing at altitude on Sunday, not to mention the emotional highs of coming back from 20 points in the second half in Denver.

Not for nothing, many Timberwolves were on the court doing interviews or celebrating with a thousand Minnesota fans for a solid 30 minutes after the Game 7 win. You never thought you would hear a visiting crowd chanting “Slo-Mo” for Kyle Anderson, did you?

They did not get back to Minneapolis until 2 or 3 a.m. CT, if not a touch later. Their entire Monday was presumably spent recovering.

The emotional comedown will be something to reckon with, as ambiguous of a handicap as that sounds. Yes, Target Center will want to celebrate all over again at Wednesday’s tip, but if the series against the Nuggets proved anything, it's that an electric home court is not necessarily conducive to the Timberwolves’ success.

Minnesota’s emotions may work against them early in Game 1. The biggest reason not to doubt the Wolves for the whole game is their proven track record of recovering in the third quarter, as they did in Game 7.

Best bet: Mavericks first-half moneyline (+130 at Caesars)

NBA Trends: All eyes on Kristaps

If there's any distinct wonder in the East, it's when Kristaps Porzingis will return to the court. He has missed the last six games with a soleus strain, but some reports indicate he may get back on the court in this round.

Boston should handle Indiana without Porzingis, but its margin for error is diminished. And if he's not full-go by the Finals, both Western Conference finalists have the size to make the Celtics fret.

Raising the ceiling: Go to a Game 7

On a quick personal note, if the chance ever comes, go to a Game 7.

I have been clear around here and loud on Twitter, I am a Timberwolves fan and season-ticket holder, but the need to go to a Game 7 was more about wanting to experience that unique set of emotions.

It did not disappoint. Even when Minnesota was down 20, the stakes were so high that 98% of Denver fans were still stressed.

Sports sometimes give us a chance to experience part of the human psyche that everyday life does not. Feeling 21,000 people all anxious at the same time was one of those moments.

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