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Game Preview: Timberwolves at Nuggets
Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
The Timberwolves follow-up their feisty bout with the Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday with a showdown against the equally gritty Denver Nuggets. Although the injury bug has depleted the Nuggets of several of their key players, the team hasn’t necessarily suffered any glaring setbacks. They enter tonight riding high, delivering the league-leading Golden State Warriors perhaps their biggest punch in the mouth of the season, winning 132-110.
What the Nuggets lack in defense (they rank 30th in Defensive rating and 28th in opponents pts/g) they more than make up for on the offensive side. Denver employs one of the more deadly offenses in the NBA, utilizing their youth and athleticism to attack the basket in transition over and over again (They rank 6th in pace and 8th in team fastbreak pts/g) Nikola Jokic has quickly caught up to Minnesota’s own Karl-Anthony Towns as one of the most exciting young big men in the league, and rookie Jamal Murray is currently enjoying one of the better rookie campaigns of this year’s draft class.
This will be Denver and Minnesota’s fourth and final meeting of the season. Denver currently leads the series 2-1.
Denver won first meeting 102-99 behind the terrifying bulk of former Denver big man Jusuf Nurkic, who bullied his way to the basket like a young Shaquile O’Neil, scoring 18 points and finishing the night with a game high +13. Despite an unbelievable night from Towns (32-14-2), putrid play from Kris Dunn and Gorgui Dieng sunk any chance at a Timberwolves win (Dunn and Dieng both played over 27 minutes and managed to go a combined 2-12 from the field with 8 turnovers).
Denver won the second one in heartbreaking fashion, stealing a close one in the final moments behind impressive play from Danilo Gallinari (he scored 18 points on 0.667 shooting), despite a triple-double from Karl-Anthony Towns (15-11-10). Denver took this one 105-103.
Minnesota finally managed a tough win in the two teams’ third meeting. Karl-Anthony Towns played like a man possessed in his 40 minutes (32-12-7 with 4 blocks), with Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammed picking up much of the remaining slack, combining for 44-9-5. With Jusuf Nurkic out, and the Nuggets struggling from beyond the arc (7-24) the Wolves were able to play smart, refusing to panic and playing close in an exciting back-and-forth bout, with the Wolves finally pulling out a close one in the fourth.
The Nuggets are one of the most potent offenses in the NBA this season, ranking top five in total rebounds, assists, and points. There defensive play is another story entirely, however. Expect a high scoring affair tonight, with special attention given to the inside-outside game of both Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic. The already apparent ability of these two young players is shaping the Denver/Minnesota matchup into one of the more exciting budding rivalries in the younger sect of the Western Conference – hopefully for many years to come. Go Wolves.
TV: Fox Sports North – Dave Benz (play-by-play), Jim Peterson (analyst)
Radio: 830 WCCO-AM – Alan Horton (play-by-play)
(All stats found on nba.com, and basketball-reference.com)