The slumping Denver Nuggets host the battered Minnesota Timberwolves in a meeting of two similar teams who went in two opposite directions this year. The Timberwolves forced the Nuggets out of the playoff picture in overtime of Game 82 last year, and both teams were expected to compete for higher seeds this year. Between the Jimmy Butler issues pre- and post-trade and the subsequent coaching change from Tom Thibodeau to Ryan Saunders, the T-Wolves haven’t been the same team as last year. They might have escaped without serious injury after a scare in their recent win over the Washington Wizards, and their victories over those Wizards and the New York Knicks have kept their playoff hopes on life support - although at 6 games out of the playoffs right now even that’s being generous.
But they’ll need to beat the Nuggets to keep that momentum, and momentum is exactly what the Nuggets themselves are looking to re-establish. After a film session that was not for the faint of heart detailing what coach Michael Malone himself described as “selfish basketball” since the All-Star break, the Nuggets look to regain their unselfish ways and help close the book on Minnesota’s dreams of the playoffs just as the Timberwolves did to them last season.
Who: Denver Nuggets (43-22) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (32-35)
When: 8:30 PM MST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO
How to watch: TNT
Rival blog: Canis Hoopus
Luol Deng - out (sore Achilles), Robert Covington - out (knee), Karl-Anthony Towns - questionable (knee inflammation), Andrew Wiggins - questionable (thigh contusion, Trey Lyles - out (hamstring), Michael Porter Jr - out (2019-20 ROY considerations)
Three Things to Watch
- Can the Nuggets regain their sharing ways? It’s not that Denver isn’t passing - they are - but the ball movement around the key and across the court that Denver prided itself on for the first several months of the season hasn’t been there in March. As Chris Dempsey himself points out, it’s the secondary assists that show the lack of sharing:
But I think the number to keep an eye on most is secondary assists -- the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the made FG. These have fallen off considerably. This is the #Nuggets month-to-month in that area:— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) March 11, 2019
Denver has to regain its willingness to pass up a decent shot for a good one and a good one for a great one. Making those great shots would also help.
- Will Denver bring the intensity against a weakened foe? The Nuggets have already dropped a game this month to the Anthony-Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans. There’s no shame in that - the Pelicans are playing good ball with less AD and have snuck up on several teams. But it’s the way Denver lost, at home in a game they should have won and instead lost going away, that’s concerning. Hopefully the team and coaching staff can lean on that experience and not let this game get away.
- Starters vs. starters should be a slam-dunk win for the Nuggets. Forget the bench and the IT-vs-Morris issues that have impacted it for a moment. Denver’s starters laid a huge egg against the Golden State Warriors and should be out looking for redemption against a team that might not have Towns or Wiggins, or at best should have hampered versions of them. The Timberwolves have good talent on their roster but Denver should be better from both a coach and player perspective, and it’s time for the Denver squad to take care of business.
Prediction: 114-101, Nuggets.