We've just found the cure for an ailing Nuggets team: a visit from the lowly Timberwolves playing the second of a back-to-back and coming in from the Pacific Time Zone no less.
Make no mistake about it: our Nuggets are ailing. After winning seven straight games, the Nuggets have lost three out of their last five. On top of the losses, Chauncey Billups continues to miss games with a strained wrist, Chris Andersen has missed eight straight games with a back contusion and now Carmelo Anthony - who has been been playing great since returning from a sore right knee - has an injured thumb, but will continue to play.
Oh, and there's that whole "when will Carmelo get traded?" talk going on in the background.
I couldn't think of a better time for the Minnesota Timberwolves to play one of their four regular season games against our Nuggets.
Now I know what many of you are thinking: "TRAP GAME!" And with good reason. Even though the Wolves has lost 12 of their previous 14 games, in those 12 losses they've almost beaten San Antonio twice (home and road) and almost took down the Trail Blazers in Portland last night. And lest we forget that it was just last season when the Wolves ended a 13-game losing streak by coming into Denver and upsetting the Nuggets 106-100 on November 29th - without Kevin Love, who was injured at the time.
But as has become a hallmark of the 2008 through 2010 (and soon-to-be 2011) Denver Nuggets, the Nuggets have finally gotten good at beating the teams they're supposed to beat. At least most of the time. The Nuggets had just two unacceptably stupid home losses all last season: to the Wolves on 11/29 and to the 76ers on 1/3. And this season to date, the Nuggets have lost just one game - in Charlotte last week - where you could argue they had no business losing before tip-off.
Barely dropping games to the likes of the Spurs and Mavericks at home is painful, but those are great teams. Dropping a game to a team of the Wolves' stature - playing the second of a back-to-back while the Nuggets have been able to rest at home for a full week - is plainly unacceptable. (I encourage readers to re-visit my break down of good losses, bad losses and unacceptable losses after we lost to the Wolves at home last season.)
In order for history to not repeat itself tonight, the Nuggets have to run the Wolves out of the building. I love Kevin Love. LOVE the guy! In fact, he's on my short list of players that I would do almost anything to get him into a Nuggets uniform. But Love ain't quick. And neither is the suddenly improved Darko Milicic. Rather than wait until the fourth quarter to unleash their energy wave as we saw against the Magic on Tuesday night, the Nuggets should pounce on the road-weary Wolves early and often. Bad young teams like Minnesota will quit at halftime if the lead is substantial enough. But they will just as easily make for a long night for our Nuggets if given a glimmer of hope.
SCOUTING THE TIMBERWOLVES...
-Kevin Love: Have I mentioned that I love Kevin Love yet? Averaging 15.6 rebounds per game (read that again: 15.6 rebounds per game!), Love is grabbing more boards per night than any player since Dennis Rodman averaged 16.05 rebounds per night for the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls. And unlike Rodman, Love can score, too, averaging 20.3 ppg. It's going to be fun watching Love, David Lee and Blake Griffin revolutionize the power forward position in the Western Conference for years to come. Even more remarkable about Love is that he's nowhere near the 6'10" that he's listed at. I've stood right next to the guy before (at a Lakers game when he was still at UCLA) and he may have been 6'8" tops.
-Michael Beasley: Minnesota seems to have found great success with high draft picks that they themselves didn't draft, such as Beasley. Once regarded as a bust after Miami drafted him second overall, Beasley has blossomed in Minnesota to the tune of 21.5 ppg on a respectable 47.6% shooting from the field.
In-between Stiff and Non-Stiff
-Darko Milicic: Darko - yes, that Darko - is having a decent season. Second in the NBA in blocked shots at 2.6 bpg, Darko has had some monster games - by Darko standards - in the last few weeks. Looking beyond the blocked shots, though, Darko's field goal percentage is a disastrously low 44.1% and he only grabs six rebounds per game. Not acceptable a 7'0" starting center.
-Corey Brewer: Brewer is a big tease. After having a decent season last year and getting everyone to think the former seventh overall pick had gotten on the right track, Brewer's numbers are down across the board this season. He's shooting just 37.1% from the field and a horribly low 27.3% from three-point range, and yet still takes two three's per game.
-Kosta Koufos: Koufos continues to cement his legacy as a Stiff moving from Utah to Minnesota. Even in the modern NBA, there's still room for a 7'0" white guy at the end of the bench.
I regrettably won't be at the game tonight due to a conflict, which sucks because I really want to see Love in action. But in theory, this game should be a snoozer: a bad opponent on a back-to-back and the Nuggets are well rested. In theory.
Opposition's Take: Canis Hoopus