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Game 38 Preview & Thread: Nuggets vs. T-Wolves (7pm MST)

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Melo_twolf_medium Do I need to say it? I guess I have to mention it ... the Nuggets will be looking to atone for their Nov. 29th home loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves tonight at the Pepsi Center. Some good news for Denver, Carmelo Anthony is expected to play tonight after missing the previous five games.

The particulars ...

Records:
Denver:
23-14 (15-3 at home, 8-11 on the road)
Minnesota: 8-30 (5-15 at home, 3-15 on the road)
Injuries:
Denver:
Ty Lawson (ankle) and Carmelo Anthony (knee) are both game time decisions.
Minnesota: Ryan Hollins (upper respiratory infection) is out tonight.

Opposition's Take: Canis Hoopus

After missing extended time with a knee injury, Carmelo Anthony is expected to make his return to the court tonight against the T-Wolves. While it is good to have your star miss a couple of games, to give some other players a little time in the rotation, I'm ready for Anthony's return. Five games without Melo is enough for me.

Along with Melo's return, Ty Lawson is expected to play tonight after missing the Nuggets' previous two games. With the return of Melo and Lawson, the Nuggets will have 100% of their roster available for the first time in 2010. There are still a lot of bumps and bruises on the roster ... cough, Andersen, cough, Chris, cough (to name one) ... but it'll be nice to see the whole team back in action tonight.

Having a healthy roster didn't help the Nuggets the last night Minnesota came to town as the Nuggets lost in embarrassing fashion 106-100, to a then 1-15 Timberwolves team. In that loss the Nuggets were hurt badly by Ryan Gomes impressive shooting performance (12-18 for 27 points) and a lack of bench production. The Nuggets' bench outscored the T-Wolves bench 19-18, but 19 points from a combination of J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson, Birdman and Joey Graham is horrendous. As we all know ... Smith and Lawson are more than capable of putting up 19 points each.

Much like the Sacramento game from Saturday night, the Nuggets, on Nov. 29th, held a comfortable halftime lead against the Wolves (64-50) and then came out and played an atrocious third quarter. Denver was outscored by Minnesota 31-12 in that period and the Nuggets never recovered after coughing up the 14 point lead.

I expect the return of Melo and Lawson to give the Nuggets a much needed boost, but it will be interesting to see how things play out on the floor tonight. Since Melo has been out of the lineup, Kenyon Martin has been playing at an extremely high level, especially on the offensive end. Martin has elevated his game across the board boosting his scoring average over the last five games from 11.6 to 19, shooting percentage from 46% to 52%, rebounding from 8.6 to 11.2 to go along with 2.8 assists, 2 steals and 1 block per game. Martin has been carrying the load and with Melo's return it'll be interesting to see if he can keep up his shooting percentage with an expected decrease in touches.

Minnesota's big men apparently are in need of a lot of touches as well. Rumors flied this past week about Minnesota GM David Kahn supposedly offering Al Jefferson to the Indiana Pacers in return for Danny Granger. Rumors of Kevin Love and Jefferson being jealous of each other surfaced, but have been challenged by Stop-n-Pop of Canis Hoopus. Both Love and Jefferson play on the low block and it can be difficult having two productive big men wanting the ball on every possession. The Wolves also feature a point guard who likes to score (Jonny Flynn: 14.3 points and 4 assists) and a good jump shooter in Gomes. Feeding all these options can be tricky, but it's also a great problem to have if egos can be kept in check (Nuggets fans know all about this).

Love will be making his first appearance against the Nuggets this season and I'm very interested to see what he can do. In 20 games this season the 6'10'' power forward/center is averaging 15.4 points and 12.4 rebounds. I was a big fan of Love at UCLA and it seems like he always misses games against the Nuggets, thus making it difficult for me to catch him actually playing.

The Wolves will again challenge the Nuggets with their offensive weapons and if Denver allows the Wolves to hang around late in the game we could be in for another nail biter, but Denver is armed with one of the best clutch players in the league as Melo will be on the floor tonight.

Views you can use:

  • In missing Denver's previous five games, Melo (30 ppg) has recaptured the NBA scoring lead from Kobe Bryant (29.6).
  • In the game on Nov. 29th the Wolves' starters outscored the Nuggets' starters 88-81 ... ouch.
  • Billups and J.R. combined to go 7-18 from three-point land in Denver's loss to the Kings on Saturday night (January 9th). As a team Denver was 8-22 from distance in that game.

ntimmons73@yahoo.com
Twitter: Nate_Timmons

Photo courtesy of Getty Images: David Sherman