Technically, the Timberwolves defeated the team at the top of the Western Conference standings on Sunday in a 128-98 win over Denver.
Even though it will go in the official ledger like any other win, you can chalk this one up as the Wolves' biggest schedule win of the season.
A night after playing in Denver, the Nuggets opted to sit out Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The team the Wolves will face Tuesday night in Denver will likely look much different than the one they rolled off the floor Sunday.
The Wolves, to their credit, didn't mess around, as they tend to do when they face teams they should beat. They were up 11 at the end of the first quarter, 20 by halftime and had smooth sailing the rest of the way. That kind of night is rare for this team.
"We were very businesslike," coach Chris Finch said. "Took advantage of the opportunity that was there for us."
D'Angelo Russell got the Wolves off on the right foot with 14 of his 18 points in the first quarter. Anthony Edwards, who was 15-for-41 in his last two games entering Sunday, scored 20 points on 8-for-17. Kyle Anderson left early because of back spasms for the second consecutive game, but Finch said part of that was because the Wolves didn't much need him. He was also able to limit Rudy Gobert to 18 minutes.
The most significant thing that happened for the Wolves on Sunday was point guard Jordan McLaughlin made his return from a 30-game absence because of a left calf injury. McLaughlin received a standing ovation upon checking into the game and within seconds drew an offensive foul.
He sparked an 11-2 Wolves run that gave them a 32-21 lead at the end of the first. The fans were back on their feet as McLaughlin ended the quarter with a tough layup in the closing seconds. He finished with two points and three assists in 11 minutes. He will be on a minutes restriction as he works his way back.
"I definitely feel the love from the fans," McLaughlin said. "I go out there and play hard, and that's what a lot of people want to see most of the time — somebody playing hard and playing the right way. That's what I look to do, and fans appreciate it and I appreciate them."
The Wolves are going to have to get used to seeing their fans less often the rest of the season. They just concluded a six-game homestand 4-2 and will head on the road for their next four and 17 of their next 26 to close the season. The Wolves have a 20-12 record at home, 9-15 on the road.
"We've got some really tough, like close losses on the road," Finch said. "Being able to maintain scoring down the stretch has been something that we got to do a little bit better job of. Turnovers late in the game, that kind of stuff."
This was something the Wolves didn't have to worry about on Sunday. Everything came easy when the best player they had to face was Michael Porter Jr., who had 22 points for the Nuggets. Denver couldn't have handed the game to the Wolves more than it did in the first half when the Wolves converted 14 Nuggets turnovers into 25 points.
"In games like these, you kind of play down to the competition," said forward Jaden McDaniels (14 points, six assists). "So, just made it seem like all their starters were out there and just playing with aggression."
Now, they'll have to carry that on the road, and Tuesday they're liable to face Denver's actual starters. Some of the most difficult basketball the Wolves have lies ahead. Sunday gave them some calm before the storm.