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The Timberwolves Are Going To Need A Whole Lot More Than "Aura" In Game 2 Or They'll Find Themselves In A World Of Trouble

David Berding. Getty Images.

One of the weirdest things we do over the course of the playoffs is that whenever a team loses a game, there is this desire to deem a series over. It's one of the most bizarre things we as fans do over the course of a playoff run. What makes it insane is that even when we see that a series is in fact not over just because a team lost a game, once we get to the next series we just repeat the same old routine.

Take both the Mavs and Wolves for example. How many times did we hear their 2nd round series were over after someone won a game? The Mavs stole Game 2, which meant OKC was cooked. Then OKC won on the road and it meant the Mavs were cooked. The Wolves won the first 2 games against the Nuggets and it meant DEN was cooked. Then the Nuggets won 3 straight and it meant the Wolves were the ones who were actually dead. 

Giphy Images.

Maybe it's because everyone needs to give an instant overreaction and hot take nowadays, but I never understand why it's so hard to just let the series play out before declaring a matchup over (or until someone goes up 3-0). If these playoffs have told us anything, especially involving MIN/DAL, it's that things aren't over until the fat lady sings, regardless of what happens to start a series.

With that said, you cannot fuck around this time of year, this deep into the playoffs. That's the challenge for the Wolves tonight. While you are not officially cooked if you fall down 0-2, it's certainly not a position you want to be in. Take it from someone who watched his favorite team gag the first two games of the ECF at home last year and had to deal with this

Adam Glanzman. Getty Images.

We've talked about the numbers before, teams up 2-0 in a series are 422-34 all time, good for a 92.5% winning percentage. In the Conference Finals, that record is 58-6. Since the playoff format change in 1984, when the road team wins the first two games of a series, they are 23-4. 

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So in a sense, this is about as must win as it gets for the Wolves without "technically" being a must win by the standard definition. It's what makes tonight's Game 2 so intriguing. 

Since the Game 1 upset, you could sense that desire to declare this series over and put the Mavs in the Finals. To that I would just say

Giphy Images.

One of the best parts of this Wolves team is their resiliency. Not just in the playoffs, but all season long. When they've gotten punched, they've always punched back. In 2024 following a loss, the Wolves were 21-4. After that 3 game skid against the Nuggets, they won 2 straight including Game 7 on the road in one of the toughest arenas in the league to play in. If I were a Wolves fan, I would have all the confidence in the world about a Game 2 bounce back, because of what the team has shown all year.

Game 1s can be tricky given they are mostly feel-out games. You're figuring out what works and what doesn't against a new matchup, how that team plans on attacking you, what adjustments you need to make etc. The Mavs and the Nuggets could not be more different from a style and matchup perspective for the Wolves, and sometimes you need to see it first before you figure out how to solve that puzzle.

So how do they get it done? For starters, it requires their best player to show up. Whatever it was we saw from Ant in Game 1 (6-16, 5-12), where he wasn't aggressive, was settling for threes, and was mostly a non-factor in the second half, that cannot happen again. Tired or not, this is the WCF. Maybe the adjustment is as simple as having someone else hound Kyrie, but gone are the days of the only thing that matters is Ant's "aura". At this level, you have to show up, especially at home. That's true for every superstar or budding superstar in the league, regardless of age or experience.

But the Wolves' issues in Game 1 were much more than just Ant's no-show. In no world should the Mavs be outrebounding a MIN team with this type of size, and they certainly should not have a 62-38 edge in points in the paint. That's going to fall on Gobert/KAT to man up and rebound, and it's going to require every perimeter defender on the Wolves to actually guard their yard and not let Kryie/Luka into the paint whenever the hell they want. No easy task, but nothing is easy right now.

I thought Chris Finch said it best yesterday

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It did feel like the Wolves were playing as though they had no idea the WCF had started. That's fine for 1 game as long as you immediately stop the bleeding, and I think it's totally fair to chalk that part up to inexperience. Every team is going to slip up at some point, it's more about how you then respond once it does. Would it shock anyone if the Wolves punched back tonight and then stole one in DAL? It shouldn't. 

The other side of the coin of course is Luka/Kyrie have been here before. They smell blood, and life is a whole lot different stopping that backcourt than the backcourt the Wolves just faced. People have been sleeping on their defense for a while now it seems, and remember the Wolves had the 19th ranked offense during the year and only put up 105 in Game 1. Post-trade deadline, the Mavs have been a different animal, and now you get to add momentum to the equation.

Personally, I believe in the Wolve's ability to bounce back. I believe in Ant's talent and the Wolves' collective defense. We've seen them with their backs up against the wall against an elite playoff opponent before, and they responded. While the WCF is new for them, that aspect isn't. 

But as these playoffs continue to show us, making the Finals or winning an NBA title requires more than being an "alpha" or having "aura" or giving viral postgame quotes. At the end of the day, it comes down to execution.

The Wolves have been great at that other stuff, but now it's time to execute.