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Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns reflects on Nuggets improvement after eliminating them from playoffs

Karl-Anthony Towns, Nuggets, Timberwolves

Only a season ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves headed to the 82nd and last game of their regular season, knowing nothing but a win against the Denver Nuggets could qualify them for the postseason and ensure at least four more games in their 2017-18 campaign. The Wolves won that game led by a Karl-Anthony Towns double-double of 26 points and 14 rebounds, and then went out in five games against the top-seeded Houston Rockets.

The Nuggets, though out of the playoffs, could feel something good would brew if they kept their core together in the offseason. Yet no one expected they would jump from being in the playoff bubble to the second spot in an ultra-competitive Western Conference, while the Timberwolves slid to 10th place, now likely out of the playoffs.

“They’ve had a different path than we’ve had. Their journey is different than ours,” said Towns, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “Last year we found a way to beat them in the 82nd game and find a way into the playoffs. We’re just going to be happy that we did that.

“This year, obviously, they’re playing really well. We’ve had a lot of changes, we’ve done a lot of things. But no excuses, we’ve gotta find a way to get wins and we’re just not doing that. We’ve got to find a way these last games to get wins.”

Tyus Jones, who only played 10 minutes in that playoff-clinching game, has seen how the tide changed over the course of a year,

“It’s crazy how quickly the league can change. You saw the team that they have, that they could be,” said Jones, thinking back to that euphoric night last April. “You could just see it. I don’t know if people thought 1 or 2 seed, but you could see how good they were. The longer they played together, the better they were going to get. I think they’re just finally putting that together.

“Guys playing together for a certain amount of time, you can only get better, more familiar with guys. You could see it, but it’s just crazy to see where they’re at now compared to us in only a year’s difference.”

The Nuggets kept a familiar core, but also managed to improve their defensive effort, put an even bigger emphasis on their star, Nikola Jokic, as well as fortify their bench by giving the likes of Monte Morris and Malik Beasley the chance to make a difference — a formula that has proved a boon for them under coach Mike Malone.