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Preview: Nuggets visit 11x loser Timberwolves

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Trying (yet again) to get their lost season back on course, the Nuggets visit the Timberwolves on Monday, losers of 11 straight.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Game 35: 2014-15 NBA Season
Nugs Logo
@

(14-20, 4-9 away)
Series 1-0
(5-27, 3-13 home)
January 5th, 2015
Target Center - Minneapolis, MN
6:00 PM MT
Altitude / 104.3 FM

Ty Lawson PG Zach LaVine
Arron Afflalo SG Andrew Wiggins
Wilson Chandler SF Shabazz Muhammad
Kenneth Faried PF Thaddeus Young
Timofey Mozgov C Gorgui Dieng
Notes
You're here at the worldwide leader for Nuggets blogs! Blogs Canis Hoopus
JaVale McGee - Out (Leg), Randy Foye - Out (Quad), Danilo Gallinari - Out (Knee), Darrell Arthur - Doubtful (Leg), Nate Robinson - Questionable (Wrist) Injuries Chase Budinger - Questionable (Illness). Kevin Martin - Out (Wrist), Nikola Pekovic - Out (Ankle), Ricky Rubio - Out (Ankle)
The Nuggets have won 29 of their last 38 meetings against the Wolves, dating back to the 2004-05 season. Etc... The Wolves beat the Nuggets last February by 27 points, tying their biggest-ever victory against the Nuggets.

And here you thought your Denver Nuggets were having a bad season.

Monday night's opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves, are among the worst of the worst in both the Western Conference and the NBA at-large, riding an 11-game losing streak and a 5-27 record right into the NBA Lottery toilet.

And yet, and as I've stated before, I'd take Minnesota's roster in a heartbeat over Denver's. If you're gonna be bad in the NBA, you might as well be really, really, really bad ... as that's the most strategic pathway towards amassing lottery picks that (theoretically) evolve into NBA superstars who evolve into NBA superstars with championship rings. Not only does Minnesota have the NBA's number one overall pick in Andrew Wiggins, but youngsters like Gorgui Dieng, Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad were all high draft picks, as well, and each have big upside. With more picks on the near horizon, Minnesota could be two seasons awayfrom the days when they appeared in eight consecutive post-seasons with a roster anchored around superstar power forward Kevin Garnett.

In the meantime, however, the Wolves should represent another victory for our Nuggets. Although that almost wasn't the case when the two teams met just two weeks ago on December 26th as the Nuggets couldn't overcome their Christmas hangovers and barely beat the lowly Wolves - in Denver - 106-102.

One Nugget who didn't have a Christmas hangover in that game was Kenneth Faried. Against the Wolves, Faried posted a remarkable 26 points and 25 rebounds in less than 30 minutes of playing time (on a side note I'd love to hear from the Brian Shaw defenders as to why the Nuggets coach kept Faried on the bench so much that night ... and no, don't give me the foul trouble excuse). Just for the record, Faried's sub-30 minute performance is the best in NBA history while also being the only time in Nuggets history that a player has had at least 25 points and 25 rebounds in the same game. Not even Nuggets power forward / center greats like Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, Dikembe Mutombo, LaPhonso Ellis or Antonio McDyess ever accomplished such a feat. Moreover, Faried joins only Mutombo, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley and Robert Parish in the 25+ points and 25+ rebounds while shooting at least 73% from the field club since the 1985-86 season. That's amazingly elite company.

Against the Wolves this Monday night, perhaps Shaw will give his starting power forward more than the measly 26.5 mpg he has been allocating to Faried to date this season. On a 36 mpg basis (something Faried must be thirsting for), Faried would be a 16.0 ppg / 11.6 rpg player. Something Shaw will certainly never get from Timofey Mozgov, J.J. Hickson or Darrell Arthur.

But as we've seen through 34 games of the 2014-15 Denver Nuggets season, who the hell knows what Shaw and/or his team will do at Minnesota on Monday night. Will we see the Nuggets team that just about lost to the lowly Wolves on December 26th? Or will we see the Nuggets that handily bested the mighty Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night?

Three things to look for in this game ...

1) Is Jusuf Nurkic overtaking Timofey Mozgov? For the last three consecutive games, the Nuggets rookie center Nurkic has greatly outplayed the starting center Mozgov. Could a) Nurkic overtake Mozgov altogether as the Nuggets primary season? And b) does this make Mozgov, a wanted commodity on the NBA trade market, trade-able sooner than later?

2) Will Ty Lawson continue his good play? With the exception of the late December game against the Wolves, the Nuggets starting point guard has been playing remarkably well for the last few weeks, including an impressive 25 points (on 10-14 shooting), 11 assists, two steals performance against Memphis on Saturday. Had Lawson played better against Minnesota last time, perhaps the Nuggets wouldn't have found themselves in such a dogfight.

3) Rebound domination. With center Nikola Pekovic out due to injury, the Wolves have sunk to fourth from the bottom in total rebounds and second to last in the NBA for defensive rebounds. The Nuggets, meanwhile, are the NBA's best offensive rebounding team. Look for a big rebounding night for the Nuggets front court personnel.

Scouting the Wolves ...

Wolves Non-Stiffs

-Andrew Wiggins: After a shaky start to his debut NBA season, Wiggins has put up at least 20 points in five of his last six games and is starting to show the world why this 19 year old could be a perennial All-Star for years to come. Cleveland will come to deeply regret trading Wiggins for a one-year rental on Kevin Love.

-Gorgui Dieng: This raw, 6'11" Senegalese center is starting to come into his own and is gobbling up eight rebounds per game while blocking almost two shots each night.

Wolves Stiffs

-Anthony Bennett: I feel bad picking on Bennett, the number one overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, but now in his sophomore NBA season it's becoming more and more clear that Bennett just isn't a bona fide NBA player. Even on a crummy Wolves team that desperately needs his production, Bennett is having trouble making a positive impact.

-Nikola Pekovic: I'm a big Pekovic fan, especially since he looks like General Zod's henchman Non from "Superman II". But just after signing a $48 million contract, Pekovic rewards the Wolves by appearing in just nine games this season ... a young, big, expensive center not playing is something Nuggets fans themselves are all too familiar with.

-Flip Saunders: Saunders was brought back in by Timberwolves ownership to be the team's president of basketball operations and then decided to hire himself as head coach. So far, Saunders is doing a great Dan Issel circa 1998 impression.

Final Shot

A Denver victory inches them a little closer to .500 while simultaneously inching them further away from an impactful lottery selection. And isn't it just so so sad that we as fans have to think this way with each passing game?