The Denver Nuggets are facing off against their division rival the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight in what may be the biggest game of the season thus far. The Timberwolves are locked with the Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder in a race for the top seed in the West and the Northwest Division title. An interesting quirk of the schedule this season is the Nuggets and TWolves have played just one game against each other this season, way back on the first day of November. After four and a half months of not playing each other at all, the teams now face each other three times in the final month of the season to settle their tight playoff race, starting tonight.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (47-21) at Minnesota Timberwolves (47-21)

When: 7PM MDT

Where: The place where personal budgets go to die Center. Minneapolis, MN.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5. Show up dressed as Will Barton and Tim Connelly will probably give you a 10 day contract.

Rival blog: Canis Hoopus

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Wolves Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Mike Conley Nuggets
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Jaden McDaniels Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. Anthony Edwards Wolves
PF Aaron Gordon Kyle Anderson Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Rudy Gobert Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Justin Holiday, Zeke Nnaji Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Monte Morris, Jordan McGlaughlin, Luka Garza, T.J. Warren Even

Injury Report*: Zeke Nnaji – questionable (back), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); Rudy Gobert – questionable (ribs), Naz Reid – questionable (head), Karl-Anthony Towns – out (knee), Jaylen Clark – out (achilles). *The Timberwolves injury report was not submitted at time of writing.

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Jamal Murray vs Jaden McDaniels

Nov 1, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) dribbles the ball while Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) defends during the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

I can’t think of a role player in the league who can have more of an effect on the Nuggets than McDaniels. After missing last season’s playoffs because he broke his hand punching walls, McDaniels is back to being a mainstay in Minnesota’s starting lineup as their resident wing stopper. His size and length along with his defensive acumen make him one of the toughest defenders in the league. It’s no secret that Minnesota wants him to cover Jamal Murray one on one and in the past McDaniels has been up to the task. The Nuggets need to have Murray’s scoring ability to win this matchup and he will have to find away to overcome one of the toughest defenders in the league.

The thing to remember: Minnesota can clinch the tie breaker tonight

Minnesota’s win last night against the Utah Jazz guarantees they can’t finish with a worse division record than the Nuggets. Division record is the second tie-breaker for playoff seeding after head to head record. With Minnesota winning the first of the four matchups between them and Denver, a win tonight guarantees them no worse than a tie in head to head record and a better division record for the season. Thus a victory tonight for the Wolves clinches the tie-breaker for playoff seeding. This could be fairly important for Denver. The top two seeds will face play-in teams in the first round of the playoffs and, should they advance, will have homecourt advantage in the second round of the playoffs. The Nuggets certainly won’t be doomed if they end up as the three seed but getting a top two seed has distinct advantages that they should be interested in obtaining. If they are going to do that then tonight is crucial.

The thing to bet: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over 1.5 threes (+130)

With McDaniels likely to face off with Murray it will slide Mike Conley Jr. to KCP. Conley is not a bad defender, but he is long in the tooth and undersized for Kenny Pope. Plus Rudy Gobert with sore ribs is not likely a matchup the Wolves want to throw at Nikola Jokic 1 on 1 so I expect a lot of double teams tonight, a lot of swinging the ball around the perimeter and a lot of Caldwell-Pope dropping corner threes. At +130 it’s too good to pass up.