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Preview: Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

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The Nuggets and Wolves have their last dance of the year - it should be a fun one

NBA: Rising Stars Challenge-U.S. at World Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves meet up for the final time this year, in the final game before the All-Star break for both clubs. All three previous meetings have been decided by 3 points or less as both squads have been more-or-less evenly matched. The injury bug has struck both teams hard recently, though, and some of the players further down in the rotation will play a big role in who wins tonight.

Let’s be honest though: we’re all here to see the mega-fight between Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic, right? Right. So let’s get to it.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (25-30) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (21-35)

When: 7:00PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch: Altitude TV

Rival blog: Canis Hoopus

Position Nuggets Timberwolves Advantage
PG Jameer Nelson Ricky Rubio Even
SG Gary Harris Brandon Rush Nuggets
SF Will Barton Andrew Wiggins Even
PF Juancho Hernangomez Gorgui Deng Timberwolves
C Nikola Jokic Karl-Anthony Towns Even
Bench Mason Plumlee, Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Mike Miller, Johnny O'Bryant Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica, Kris Dunn, Tyus Jones, Jordan Hill, Cole Aldrich Even

**UPDATED** Injury Report: Wilson Chandler - out (illness), Emmanuel Mudiay - out (back), Darrell Arthur - out (knee), Kenneth Faried - out (ankle), Danilo Gallinari - out (groin), Zach LaVine - out for season (knee), Adreian Payne - out (blood disorder), Lance Stephenson - questionable (ankle, life decisions)

Three things to watch:

1- Which injured team gets up for this game. The Timberwolves recently lost LaVine for the season but Wiggins dropped 41 (and not much else) against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the same game in which Rubio netted an incredible 16 assists (and not much else) after recently retaking his starting spot from Kris Dunn. Minnesota still lost. Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast, but Minnesota is a team of pieces that don’t seem to fit each other or their head coach yet, and need some extra time to grow together.

Denver is heading into the All-Star break as an injured mess that is still holding on to the 8th seed. Starting lineups and rotations are pure guesses, especially with the addition of Mason Plumlee, but Nikola Jokic is pulling all those pieces together in a way that no one on Minnesota is able to. But in the last game before the All-Star break, which young, talented team wants another win and which wants to get some rest? There’s not a lot of talent difference in the two squads (as evinced by the close nature of all the games so far) so want-to and team chemistry is gonna have a lot to do with it. If Denver spent all its energy on the Warriors this will be a tough win for them to pull off.

2- Towns vs. Jokic, obviously. Here are their lines from the 3 matchups so far:

Towns vs. Jokic

Jokic was not the starting center in November, but this heavyweight battle will be a Northwest Division favorite for many years to come. With the roll that Jokic is on right now just grab your popcorn and enjoy the action - and then prepare to see it one last time this year in the Rising Stars Challenge.

3- Can Plumlee make an immediate impact? The starting unit has been carrying all the water for Denver recently, no matter which group of players is making up that unit. The bench has been especially out-of-sorts since Mudiay’s injury, which moved Jameer Nelson to the starting lineup and left the bench without a true point guard (or the ability to run through Jokic). The 2nd quarter against the Warriors was the first game in a while that the Nuggets bench held its own, but if Plumlee can stabilize that unit immediately that would be a huge boost even to one of the best offenses in the league.

Prediction: Denver’s at home, where they suddenly have found their home court advantage again, and neither team is at full strength. If Chandler and Plumlee are good to go, however, I’m anticipating one more great game from Jokic before the All-Star Break. Let’s call it 112-105, Denver.