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Nuggets look to get back on track against Minnesota Timberwolves

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The road trip rolls on as the depleted Nuggets are in Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off of another disappointing loss in a close game to the Toronto Raptors, the Nuggets next find themselves in Minnesota to take on the divisional rival Timberwolves in an attempt to get back on their feet in the win column. Meanwhile, the young Timberwolves won their first game of the season after a 36 point drubbing of the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night and will look to build on that momentum.

The Nuggets are stretching thin at shooting guard following the ankle injury to Will Barton. Gary Harris has officially been declared out, which means that rookie Jamal Murray will likely get extended minutes for the first time this season and might even start the game. Murray is still looking for his first NBA basket, so tonight will be a great opportunity for him to score - and the Nuggets will need it. Good news is that Darrell Arthur is expected to make his season debut, but with this being his first appearance he likely will be on limited minutes.

For the Timberwolves it all starts with reigning rookie of the year Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns hasn't lived quite up to expectations in Minnesota's first few games, but he will still be a big test for Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic at center. He's joined by Zach LaVine, who just dropped 31 points on Memphis, Andrew Wiggins and new $64 million man Gorgui Dieng. Running the point for Minnesota in Ricky Rubio's absence will be rookie Kris Dunn out of Providence, drafted just two spots ahead of Murray.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (1-2) at Minnesota Timberwolves (1-2)

When: 6:00 PM MDT

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis MN

How to watch/listen: Altitude 2, 950 AM radio

Rival Blog: Canis Hoopus

Denver Minnesota Advantage
PG Emmanuel Mudiay Kris Dunn Even
SG Jamal Murray Zach LaVine Timberwolves
SF Danilo Gallinari Andrew Wiggins Nuggets
PF Nikola Jokic Gorgui Dieng Nuggets
C Jusuf Nurkic Karl-Anthony Towns Even
Key Bench Guys Jameer Nelson, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur Nemanja Bjelica, Cole Aldrich, Shabazz Muhammed, Brandon Rush Nuggets


Injury Report:
Darrell Arthur - probable (knee), Gary Harris - out (groin), Will Barton - out (ankle), Ricky Rubio - out (elbow)

What to watch for: Youth on youth on youth

Both teams are very young but with Will Barton and Ricky Rubio out the starting lineups get even younger, especially in the backcourt. The average age between Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine is just 20.5. Not to mention Towns and Tyus Jones who are both 20, Jokic and Wiggins who are 21 and Nurkic who is 22. This will be a very fun (and possibly sloppy) game to watch between two teams who look to be future powerhouses in the NBA.

Key Matchup: Jamal Murray vs. Zach LaVine

LaVine has been a surprisingly good scorer for Minnesota this season, averaging 23.7 points per game, including the 31 he put up against Memphis the other night. Murray will likely be getting his first NBA start and will play extended minutes for the first time this season, but he is 0 for 8 from the field this season. He will face the tough task of not only stopping LaVine, but the pressure will be on him to score in place of Will Barton, who is averaging 18.0 points per game himself. This will be a big test for the rookie in his first start, but the best thing that could happen to Murray right now is to get meaningful playing time.

Key Statistic: 10.7%

What is this low number? Only the Nuggets shooting percentage this season in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. Yeah, it's awful. Denver is 3 for 28 from the field during that time, and it shows in the loss column. If the Nuggets want a shot at winning games and making the playoffs this year, they need to learn how to close games and put teams away when they lead late in the game. Hopefully the blown leads in the first three games will be an anomaly and a learning experience for both Michael Malone and his players and nothing more. We'll see what happens tonight if Denver finds itself in that situation.

Prediction: Nuggets 101, Timberwolves 97

With Will Barton out the Nuggets chances of winning this game got a lot slimmer. However, I think this team has a lot of fight in them and will rise to the challenge playing in his absence. Outside of the first and fourth quarters the Nuggets have been able to score pretty well this season, and if veterans like Gallo and Faried have big nights they can definitely give Denver a chance to win. Denver will also need a big night from Nurkic or Jokic or preferably both, on offense and especially on defense against Towns. Overall, I think it will be a close match up and one that Denver pulls through in the end.