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Rudy Gobert had ’emotions’ as he watched the Timberwolves dominate the Nuggets
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Rudy Gobert had ’emotions’ as he watched the Timberwolves dominate the Nuggets

MINNEAPOLIS – Rudy Gobert admitted it could have been delirium as he watched his Minnesota Timberwolves batter defending champion Denver Nuggets 106-80 in Game 2 on Monday while cradling his newborn son hundreds of miles away from the Mile High City.

But whether the cause was exhaustion or excitement, Gobert couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by what he saw on his television screen as the Wolves took a 2-0 lead without him in the Western Conference semifinals.

“It was unbelievable,” Gobert said Wednesday at a news conference to recognize him for winning Defensive Player of the Year, a record fourth time this season. “I was obviously exhausted holding the baby and watching the game at the same time, but at the end I had a little emotion because it felt like there was something special.”

Although the Wolves missed the man now tied with Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo for most DPOY honors, they put on a defensive clinic. The Nuggets were held to a season-low 80 points, shooting just 34.9% as a team while committing 16 turnovers.

“The energy they put into it, the focus they had, the determination,” Gobert continued. “I don’t know, there was something special about the way they came out. And not just the way they came out, the way they played 48 minutes that night. It was an incredible day. It was an incredible way to to end the match.” day for me and of course for the whole.”

Gobert received 72 first-place votes for the award, 24 second-place votes and one third-place vote as he walked away from the rest of the field. San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama came in second (19 first votes), and Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo came in third (three first votes).

The Wolves, with Gobert under center, led the NBA in defense this season, allowing 108.4 points per 100 possessions — 2.2 fewer than the second-place Boston Celtics.

“These awards don’t go to teams that are struggling,” Wolves chairman Tim Connelly said on Wednesday. “So apart from the well-deserved recognition, I think it is a recognition of the success that our team is having and hopefully will continue to have.”

Minnesota coach Chris Finch, who attributed Gobert’s success this season to his efforts over the summer in developing deeper bonds with members of the organization after Gobert’s first season with the franchise ended with a first-round exit against Denver, said that Game 2 was a product of his team finding a defensive flow together.

“It’s like an attack, it feeds on itself after a while,” Finch said after practice on Wednesday. “We got into a rhythm. The point of attack was really good; the disruption was really good; the rebounding was really good. And once we realized we could kind of take advantage of it, it kind of fed on itself. … The hardest part about defending is that it takes a lot of work and you have to do it every time, so we have to be ready for Friday.”

The Wolves host the Nuggets in Game 3 on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Adding to the excitement for the Target Center crowd enjoying the first second-round playoff game in 20 years is when Gobert receives the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy for winning Defensive Player of the Year.

“Our fans are going to be loud, and you got Rudy’s presentation before the game, right? So that’s going to be special,” Wolves forward Kyle Anderson said. “It’s a big game for us. It’s almost a must-win. We have to go out and compete. I can’t wait to get out there and be in front of our fans.”