This is not a repeat of the January 5th contest, but more like a do-over: the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves square off again, this time in Denver. Without crowds, home court is mostly a matter of knowing the bounciness of your own rim and sleeping in your own bed, but Denver took the measure of Minnesota in the last game and came out the victor. With the same players - Karl-Anthony Towns is still out with a wrist injury and Michael Porter Jr. will miss the game due to Covid safety protocols - the looks won’t change much.
It will still be on Denver’s stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to pace the scoring for the home team, and outshoot the Timberwolves to take back-to-back games from their Northwest rivals. The Nuggets didn’t prove their pieces have meshed even with their 124-109 victory in the previous game, but Denver doesn’t need perfection - they need effort and commitment, and for their two stars to shine.
Who: Denver Nuggets (2-4) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (2-3)
When: 7:00 PM MST
Where: Ball Arena, Denver CO.
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. If you don Rocky’s costume the view should be great but I hope you can make half court shots. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio.
Rival Blog: Canis Hoopus
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
Deja vu, all over again. It feels like we just did this because we did indeed just do this. The same things that mattered last time - taking care of the ball, executing on offense, keeping the lead with bench players in the game - all matter in this one. Denver put on a fine fourth quarter and pulled away, but it would be nice if they had the lead after three quarters in this one. Baby steps.
Jokic foul trouble. As always, the way to slow down Jokic is to get him in early foul trouble. He still got a triple double but sat much of the first half and had to play conservatively in the third quarter to avoid any more errant whistles. If he can just not get those second and third fouls so early in this contest, Denver should have its way with Minnesota - they have no one with the size or defensive skill to slow him, and double-teaming him is playing to his strengths as a creator and passer.
Malik Beasley to go off again. Beasley had 25 points in the last game and I expect nothing different in this game. He has to shoulder much of the scoring load for that team and it’s always a revenge trip against your old squad, especially in their building. D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio have to try to create more offense for 4 quarters and Naz Reid will need to rebound and find some way to defend, but Beasley took only 16 shots to get those 25 points - I expect him to fire away this time out as they’ll need to catch fire and outscore the Nuggets rather than stopping them.
Prediction: 124-109, Nuggets. Deja vu, all over again.