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Preview: Denver Nuggets try to get back to winning ways against the Minnesota Timberwolves

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The Nuggets need a win, but so do the Wolves

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Tim DeFrisco/NBAE via Getty Images

The start of the 2020/2021 NBA season isn’t going as expected for the Denver Nuggets. They have just one victory to their name against four losses, including three on their home court. A lack of defense and rebounding has been Denver’s undoing and thus far spoiled an excellent start from Nikola Jokic. Perhaps a quick one game road trip is just what they need to get over their losing woes. The Minnesota Timberwolves are off to a slightly better start than Denver, but have faltered as of late. Both teams are sure to be desperate for a victory tonight.

Minnesota got hit with the injury bug early on this year and that’s the biggest reason for their current three game losing streak. Star center Karl-Anthony Towns is out with a dislocated wrist which caused the T-Wolves offense to take a dip and the defense is far too woeful to compensate. Minnesota’s slew of scoring wings can certainly light it up though so the Nuggets who are just as woeful on defense can’t expect an easy win, particularly on the road.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (1-4) at Minnesota Timberwolves (2-3)

When: 5:00 PM MST

Where: Target Center. Minneapolis, MN.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy...unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. Altitude TV where available, League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Sneak into Target Center dressed up as a Jesse “The Body” Ventura. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.

Rival Blog: Canis Hoopus

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
Position Nuggets Pacers Advantage
PG Monte Morris Malcolm Brogdon Pacers
SG Jamal Murray Justin Holiday Nuggets
SF Will Barton Doug McDermott Even
PF Michael Porter Jr. Domantas Sabonis Pacers
C Nikola Jokic Myles turner Nuggets
Bench P.J. Dozier, Zeke Nnaji, Isaiah Hartenstein, Vlatko Cancar T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, Edmond Sumner, Aaron Holiday Pacers

Player Availability: Michael Porter Jr. - out (safety protocol), Greg Whittington - out (knee), Karl-Anthony Towns - out (wrist), Josh Okogie - out (hamstring), Jaylen Nowell - out (ankle).

Three Things to watch for

Key matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Naz Reid

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nuggets were unable to overcome the Phoenix Suns in their last game due in large part to Jokic finding himself in foul trouble early in the second half. As has been the case sometimes with Nikola, when he’s asked to defend athletic centers who can be scoring threats he can get himself into foul trouble. Enter Naz Reid who fits the bill. He’s not the tallest five out there, but he’s scrappy and he’ll make Joker defend out to the three point line. Still, Nikola should be able to dominate the glass in this matchup and another triple double seems pretty likely...so long as he stays out of foul trouble.

Key point: need to win this game with size

It’s a shame that MPJ is not available for this game because it would exacerbate the Timberwolves size issues even further. Without Towns Minnesota is severely lacking in the height department. They’ve ran with a big (or pseudo big) plus four perimeter players pretty much exclusively since KAT went down and it has not worked well. The Wolves losing streak isn’t just bad, it’s putrid. They’ve allowed 100 points by the end of third quarter in each loss, and trailed by twenty-nine points or more at the end of the third quarter in each loss as well. The Nuggets will offer the most challenging big Minnesota has faced to date but also need to get the most out of JaMychal Green and Paul Millsap. If ever there was a game for those guys to control the boards and be able to play small ball five it’ll be against this team.

Opening thought: no slip ups

As I’ve said, both of these teams should be desperate for a win tonight. The Nuggets have to talent advantage though. While Minnesota is trying to figure out who they are with their star player out, the Nuggets are trying to figure out how to gain their form and defensive intensity. Though they ultimately lost to Phoenix, they were some more encouraging moments on the defensive end and unlike the Wolves, Denver has been right there in three of their four losses. They also won’t have their own size weaknesses exposed against this team. As long as the Nuggets execute and play good defense they will win this game. The only way to lose is to let the Timberwolves shoot threes at will and let someone like Anthony Edwards go off for thirty. Just execute, it’s all it comes down to in this one.