2024 NBA Playoffs Takeaways: Is Minnesota a team of destiny? Can Denver bounce back?

Things move fast in the NBA playoffs, so to help you stay on top of things, from now through at least the end of the second round, we will have nightly takeaways from the postseason action.

Is Minnesota a team of destiny? Can Denver bounce back?

The Minnesota Timberwolves have the aura of a team of destiny, much like the 2011 Dallas Mavericks led by Dirk Nowitzki — a good team that clicked at just the right time, went on a run and hung a banner. The Timberwolves are a long way from that magical ending, but with the way they defend (that Dallas team was top-10 in defense) and with the swagger Anthony Edwards brings, this feels like a magical run.

Don't expect Denver to go quietly into that good night. For a couple of years, when their backs were against the wall and the game was tight, the Nuggets found another gear. We've become accustomed to their comebacks, but this feels different. The Nuggets have looked overwhelmed in the first two games, what can they do to change that?

There are some tweaks they can make: Have Aaron Gordon bring the ball up the floor and make Karl-Anthony Towns guard him in space (good one from Tony Jones of The Athletic). Nikola Jokic needs to be more of a scorer than a facilitator, the Timberwolves are sitting on his passes. Plus, they need to find another level of execution and energy — they have looked shocked and a step slow through two games.

All that is great, but if Jamal Murray can't create more space and knock down more shots, none of it matters.

What made the Nuggets champions, what made them a force this season was the unstoppable two-man game of Jokic and Murray. When Murray injured his calf against the Lakers he was slowed, but Los Angeles didn't have the perimeter defender to stop him when it mattered.

Minnesota has that defender — multiple of them.

While Denver has won a ring as a team with a perfectly cohesive starting five, on Friday night, their stars need to take charge —
Jokic and Murray need to be the best two players on the floor. If not, they will be vacationing early, and Minnesota's aura of destiny will only glow brighter.

Murray got off light with $100,000 fine

Murray is going to pay a $100,000 fine "for throwing multiple objects in the direction of a game official during live play," the league announced Tuesday. Murray threw a heat pack onto the court and into live play.

That's pretty harsh, but I genuinely believe if this had been the regular season Murray would have gotten a one-game suspension. That said, I also predicted it would be a fine because the league didn't want to take Murray off the court for a must-win Nuggets game Friday.

The league office would counter this did not merit a suspension. The line of reasoning goes like this: Referee crew chief Marc Davis said if he had seen Murray throw the heat pack he would have hit the Nuggets guard with a technical foul but not ejected him — to get sent to the showers Murray would have needed to throw the pack at someone in particular, not in apparent general frustration. The NBA suits will argue they shouldn't suspend for a technical foul, that is reserved for ejections and flagrant.

There's a line of logic there, but you can't convince me that Murray would have gotten a game suspension if it had been a Tuesday night in February when he did that.

Let’s give Oklahoma City some love, too

Minnesota is drawing the headlines because they have looked dominant against the defending champs, but ignore Oklahoma City at your own risk.

They went out Tuesday night and owned Dallas. OKC held Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in check — a combined 39 points on 39.5% shooting — while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got into the paint and scored 29. However, when the defense collapsed he found shooters and the Thunder role players knocked them down.

OKC was the No. 1 seed in the West with a legit MVP candidate, and on Tuesday night they beat the hottest team at the end of the season by 22. The Thunder are real, too. It will be interesting to see how Dallas adjusts for Game 2, but after Game 1 it wouldn't surprise me if the Western Conference Finals was the two young bucks of the conference in the Thunder and Timberwolves.

"Bet the Edge" is your source for the day in betting the NBA. Get all of Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick's insight throughout the playoffs weekdays at 6AM ET right here or wherever you get your podcasts.”