September 30, 2022

It was a rough start for the Denver Nuggets summer league team as their comeback was short-lived as the Minnesota Timberwolves secured an 85-78 victory. On the bright side, it was great to get Nuggets basketball back and all three Nuggets rookies played pretty well.

The Nuggets ended up rolling with a starting lineup consisting of Collin Gillespie, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Matt Mitchell and Jontay Porter. It was surprising to see the Nuggets’ second-round pick Ismael Kamagate not get the go-ahead to start, but Porter certainly made his presence felt early on by draining the Nuggets’ first points of the game, a three-pointer.

It was a strong start for Braun and his first points with the Nuggets came thanks to that thunderous pitch:

Braun hit four of the Nuggets’ first seven shots and was super aggressive from the start at both ends of the court. That aggression continued into the second quarter when Braun finished as the Nuggets’ leading scorer in the first half with 11 points. Braun was not only efficient (5 of 9 shots from the field) in the first half, but also made a number of fine defensive plays.

Another pleasant surprise in the first half came from Kamagate, who scored six points, fired four rebounds and shot a perfect 3 of 3 from the field. Even though Kamagate surprisingly came off the bench, he still made the most of his nine minutes and gave the Nuggets great energy at both ends of the court.

The Nuggets ended up trailing 45-39 at the break and it was more or less the same in the third quarter as Minnesota built their lead to 65-56 thanks to phenomenal play from Josh Minott. Still, the Nuggets had a chance to get into the fourth, but they needed a rally to emerge from their summer league opener with a win.

Denver continued to struggle in the fourth quarter, but thanks in large part to phenomenal play from Gillespie. Not only did Gillespie hit some huge buckets in the final minutes of the fourth, but he also did a great job setting up his teammates and getting some rebounds. Gillespie 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 reduced it to a one-possession game in the final minutes, the Timberwolves still secured an 85-78 win. For the Nuggets, they were led offensively by Braun, who scored 18 points on 8 of 17 shooting from the field, 1 of 7 of 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 of three. It was a night of ups and downs for Watson who had some tough plays but made up for them with stunning plays. It was definitely a step in the right direction and it’s a performance that Watson can learn from as he progresses through the summer league.

Gillespie also put together a very solid stat line of 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field (one-of-three) and also had a surprising six rebounds. The former Villanova star also dished out four assists and four interceptions as Gillespie was the calm, cool and collected presence for the Nuggets at 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. Over the course of one game, no one has really pulled away in the race for the Nuggets’ two-way second-place finish, but Grady feels like he’s ahead after Game 1.

The Nuggets will be back in action Sunday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The warning for this game is set for 5:00 PM MST and will air on ESPNU.