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Preview: Nuggets look to shine against Timberwolves

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The Nuggets have won four straight, and look to stay undefeated in the division with a home game against the team up north.

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets have won four straight, and can finish their homestand with a perfect record with a win Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

While the Nuggets are leading the Northwest Division a quarter of the way through the season, the Timberwolves have stumbled a bit after a hot start to the season. They’ve gone with a unique approach to their starting lineup, inserting rookie Jarrett Culver into their starting lineup in place of Jeff Teague to try to get more length on the court to fit their defensive scheme. While that might be beneficial for Culver’s long-term development, the losses have piled up for the team as of late, with Minnesota having lost eight in a row.

The Timberwolves may be without their rookie, Culver, who missed the team’s previous game with an illness, as well as their starting center, Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns was out with a knee injury, and his status for the game against the Nuggets is in question. If he’s not able to go, that would be a huge boost for the Nuggets, who are already 10 point favorites.

The Basics

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (10-16) vs Denver Nuggets (18-8)

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

When: 7:00 PM MT

How to Watch: Altitude, NBA League Pass

Rival Blog: Canis Hoopus

Lineups

Projected Matchups

POS MIN DEN EDGE
POS MIN DEN EDGE
PG Jarrett Culver Jamal Murray Nuggets
SG Andrew Wiggins Gary Harris Even
SF Josh Okogie Will Barton Nuggets
PF Robert Covington Paul Millsap Even
C Karl-Anthony Towns Nikola Jokic Even
BENCH Jeff Teague, Shabazz Napier, Treveon Graham, Keita Bates-Diop, Jake Layman, Gorgui Dieng, Noah Vonleh Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr, Juancho Hernangomez, Mason Plumlee Nuggets

Injuries: Jarrett Culver (probable - illness), Karl-Anthony Towns (probable - knee), Jake Layman (probable - toe); Jamal Murray (probable - core), Torrey Craig (probable - illness)

Three Things to Watch

Can the Nuggets keep the Timberwolves out of the paint? The Nuggets defense has been their key to success this season, and while they’ve had their problems as of late, this game can be a chance to get back on track. If Towns is out, the Timberwolves don’t have any players that should seriously be able to threaten the Nuggets defense. While Jeff Teague could spell trouble, as long as the Nuggets guards can keep him trapped and force him to beat them from the perimeter, they should be able to have a solid night defensively.

Don’t let their foot off the gas. The Timberwolves losing streak has mostly been due to their defense being, well, the worst. While they can get mad at Chris Paul for snitching on Jordan Bell for not tucking in his jersey, they did give up a full-court pass for a layup immediately after that. The referees weren’t the ones playing defense on that play, they were! Just don’t let that happen!

In their other seven losses, they’ve allowed (from least to most): 107, 115, 121, 124, 125, 127, 139 (OT), and 142 points (to the Lakers). That’s a lot of points! The Nuggets have an opportunity to not only pick up a win, but to do so by scoring nearly 130 points. That should quiet a few critics.

Think of the playoffs! Minnesota doesn’t look like a playoff team anymore. They look like a team that hitched their wagon to a Clydesdale in Towns, and a Labrador Retriever in Wiggins. They can keep trying to figure things out, or eventually come to the realization that they probably aren’t going to be able to get to where Towns could take them with a better supporting cast. The Nuggets can help them discover this by picking up a convincing, dominant win at home to stay undefeated against their division and finish this five-game stretch of games at home without a loss. You can do it, Denver — you’re so close!

Prediction

Minnesota Timberwolves 118 - Denver Nuggets 117. This is a classic trap game. They have a back-to-back coming up, with the first game against the Lakers. Be afraid.