How did the Timberwolves defense thrive without Rudy?

The Timberwolves' defense was rated best in the NBA most of the season, but Monday's stifling 106-80 dismantling of reigning champion Denver was next level.

The Nuggets' 80 points were their fewest scored in the regular or postseason this season. Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards outscored the Nuggets by themselves 36-35 in the first half. The Wolves' defense frustrated Denver star Jamal Murray enough to cause him to throw a heat pack and towel on the court during a 3-for-18 shooting night, which eventually cost him a $100,000 fine by the league.

The Wolves did it all with Rudy Gobert, the now four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, at home in Minnesota cradling his newborn son Romeo while he watched them play on.

Just how did they do it?

"I wish I knew," Wolves point guard Mike Conley said. "The absence of Rudy put a little bit more pressure on everybody. You didn't want to be that guy. You didn't want to be that guy not giving the effort. You didn't want to be that guy not in the right spot, not communicating because we knew we didn't have Rudy back there to save us from something happening. So the team just collectively got together, saw the effort going on out there and put on a show.

"Like for real. I hadn't seen us play that hard and that aggressive and that connected in a long time."

Forward Kyle Anderson took Gobert's place in Monday's starting five and began guarding three-time league MVP Nikola Jokic, who shot 5-for-13 himself.

Anderson was asked what he and his teammates did differently that night.

"That's y'all job to say," Anderson told reporters. "Just different personnel. I don't want to say we made an adjustment, but maybe just a little different edge out there. You got Rudy the rim protector when he's out there. This time we had to keep guys in front and be scrappy and swarm and compete and rotate.

"So just a little different energy out there."

Gobert held his baby and watched from afar while his teammates demonstrated the defensive culture Wolves coach Chris Finch said was largely inspired by Gobert himself.

"It was incredible," Gobert said. "Obviously I was watching the game, holding the baby at the same time. But I had a little emotion at the time because it like was something special. The energy, the focus that they had, the determination. I don't know, there was something special in the way they came out. They came out to play 48 minutes. It was an incredible day, an incredible way to end the day for me and obviously the whole organization."

Gobert spoke at a Wednesday morning news conference promoting the Defensive Player of the Year award he won for a record-tying fourth time, matching Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace. TNT announced him the winner during Tuesday night's playoff broadcast.

The Wolves' Game 2 victory in the Western Conference semifinals kept them a perfect 6-0 in the playoffs, after they swept Phoenix 4-0 in the first round. Four of those are consecutive road victories.

The best-of-seven series comes to Target Center on Friday and Sunday for Games 3 and 4.

The Wolves seek a Game 2 repeat, or anything close to it defensively.

"It's like offense, it just feeds itself," Finch said. "After a while, we've gotten in a good rhythm. Point of attack [defense] was really good. Interruption was really good. Rebounding was really good. Like Nickeil [Alexander-Walker] said in his postgame, you felt like we were in a defensive zone. You don't hear that much, but it's the mindset of any great athlete. You want to get in that zone where things feel automatic to you.

"The hard part about defense is it takes a lot of work and you have to do it every single time."