To the delight of the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Timberwolves themselves and any other Western Conference team with playoff designs, Minnesota knocked off the eighth-place Nuggets on Sunday. Denver is now just a half game up for postseason position.
But perhaps the Nuggets would have more breathing room if the game featured correct officiating down the stretch.
Towns (MIN) is in the paint without actively guarding an opponent for longer than three seconds.
Towns is clearly matched up with Nikola Jokic, but the rules require Towns to be “within arms length of an offensive player and in a guarding position.” Towns is playing too far off Jokic to qualify.
Danilo Gallinari got away with travelling one second later, but a correct call would’ve stopped play and given any Denver player on the court – likely Gallinari, who’s shooting 89% from the line this season and 86% – a single free throw. Then, the Nuggets would’ve taken the ball out of bounds with a fresh chance to score.
Instead, with Towns covering the paint, Minnesota forced a miss and grabbed the defensive rebound. Denver began intentionally fouling, and the Timberwolves escaped with a 111-108 win that altered wide-open chase for the No. 8 seed in the West.