The Denver Nuggets (29-13) are coming off of a loss to the Indiana Pacers, and they’re also playing their second back-to-back in the last five days against the Minnesota Timberwolves (15-27). They’re now tied for third in the Western Conference, and they’ll be looking to stack their wins en route to All-Star Weekend next month.
For the Timberwolves, they’ve gotten Karl Anthony-Towns back from injury, and they’re going to be trying to get back into the playoff mix after struggling mightily through the month of December. They’re only 5.0 games out of eighth place in the West which is doable thanks to a talented roster.
This is the first of three games on the road for Denver, and they’re playing three talented teams. With five teams within 3.0 games of each other out West, these wins matter more than most January games. Denver will likely be short-handed for this game due to injuries, so this could be tighter than it normally would at full strength.
Who: Denver Nuggets (29-13, 12-7 away) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (15-27, 6-14 home)
When: 6:00 p.m. MST
Where: Target Center
How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Minneapolis. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Canis Hoopus
Expected Starting Lineups:
IND: PG Shabazz Napier, SG Jarrett Culver, SF Andrew Wiggins, PF Robert Covington, C Karl Anthony-Towns
DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Torrey Craig, SF Will Barton, PF Jerami Grant, C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Allen Crabbe (Illness) Day-to-Day, Jake Layman (Toe) Out, Gary Harris (Adductor) Out, Paul Millsap (Knee) Out, Jamal Murray (Ankle) Out
Three Things to Watch
Denver’s 3-point Defense
When Denver has lost to below-average teams on their schedule this season, they’ve given up a lot of scoring from outside. Against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, they allowed them shoot well above all of their season averages. This Timberwolves’ team has a number of shooters that are streaky when they get hot, and, with two of their best defenders out for this game, that will make defending them more difficult.
Far and away the best player for the Timberwolves is their center Anthony-Towns. He can shoot from outside while scoring inside as well, and the Nuggets just got ripped up by Pacers’ center Domantas Sabonis to the tune of a 22-15-10 triple-double. Nikola Jokic will be in charge of checking him while Jerami Grant guards Robert Covington, and he’ll need to keep his activity up to keep KAT from running wild on them.
Denver’s 3-point Offense
In addition to their 3-point defense, their 3-point offense needs a major improvement over what we saw out of them on Sunday. The Nuggets shot just 3-of-23, and two of those makes came out of Jokic. Shooting 13.0 percent from distance is just not going to cut it against even the worst teams. If Denver wants to come out of this game with a win, they’re going to need offense out of someone other than Jokic.