Recap: Nuggets open summer league with loss to Timberwolves

2022 NBA Summer League - Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves
Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Comeback fell just short, but at least Nuggets basketball is back!

It was a tough start for the Denver Nuggets summer league squad as their comeback fell just short as the Minnesota Timberwolves captured a 85-78 victory. On the bright side, it was awesome to have Nuggets basketball back and all three of the Nuggets rookies played fairly well.

The Nuggets ended up rolling with a starting lineup that featured Collin Gillespie, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Matt Mitchell, and Jontay Porter. It was surprising to see Nuggets second round pick Ismael Kamagate not get the starting nod, but Porter certainly made his presence felt early as he drained the Nuggets first points of the game, a three-pointer.

It was a solid start for Braun as well as his first points with the Nuggets came courtesy of this thunderous throw down:

Braun had four of the Nuggets first seven shots and was super aggressive from the start on both ends of the floor. That aggressiveness carried over into the second quarter as Braun finished as the Nuggets first half leading scorer with 11 points. Braun was not only effective (5-of-9 shooting from the field) in the first half, but also made a number of nice defensive plays.

Another pleasant surprise in the first half came courtesy of Kamagate, who scored six points, hauled in four rebounds, and shot a perfect 3-of-3 from the field. Even though Kamagate surprisingly came off the bench, he still took advantage of his nine minutes and gave the Nuggets great energy on both ends of the floor.

The Nuggets ended up trailing 45-39 at the break and it was more of the same in the third quarter as Minnesota built their lead to 65-56 in thanks to some phenomenal play by Josh Minott. Still, the Nuggets had a chance going into the fourth, but they needed a rally to walk out of their first game of summer league with a victory.

Denver kept fighting in the fourth quarter though in large part to the phenomenal play by Gillespie. Not only did Gillespie hit some huge buckets in the closing minutes of the fourth, but he also did a great job setting up his teammates and getting rebounds. Gillespie just did everything well and made his impact felt in all aspects of the game, it was a great start for the Nuggets rookie.

Even though the Nuggets cut it down to a one-possession game in the closing minutes, the Timberwolves still pulled off a 85-78 win. For the Nuggets, they were lead offensively by Braun, who scored 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field, 1-of-7 from three to go along with five rebounds and three assists.

As for the Nuggets other first round pick — Peyton Watson — he finished the night with eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists on 4-of-13 shooting from the field, 0-of-4 from three. It was an up and down night for Watson who had some tough plays, but made up for with them with some eye popping plays. It was definitely a step in the right direction and is a performance Watson can learn from as he goes through summer league.

Gillespie also put up a really solid stat line of 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field (one three) and also hauled in a surprising six rebounds. The former Villanova star also dished out four assists and had four steals as Gillespie was the calm, cool, and collected presence for the Nuggets on both ends of the floor.

Matt Mitchell also finished in double-figures with 11 points, while Kellan Grady was right behind him with nine points. Through one game, no one has really pulled away in the race for the Nuggets second two-way spot, but Grady feels to be in the lead after game one.

The Nuggets will be back in action on Sunday night when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Tip-off for that game is set for 5PM MST and will air on ESPNU.

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