After an impressive road win against the Houston Rockets to open the season, the Denver Nuggets are in town for their first game of the season at Pepsi Center. Tonight is the first chance for Denver fans to get an up close look at rookie sensation, Emmanuel Mudiay. New head coach Michael Malone will also be making his Pepsi Center debut as the Nuggets head coach. Danilo Gallinari will look to continue his hot streak which began last march, carried over into Eurobasket over the summer, and was on full display against the Rockets on Wednesday.

Like the Nuggets, the Timberwolves are also a young team in the early stages of a rebuild. The T-Wolves roster features a pair of #1 overall picks in consecutive NBA drafts in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Both Wiggins and Towns project to be very impactful players for years to come and Wiggins has already made himself into a very solid NBA player in his first season. Ricky Rubio was the team’s leading scorer in their season-opening win against the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring a career-high 28 points including a handful of surprising jump-shots. The team is also riding an emotional wave right now after the sudden and tragic passing of former head coach Flip Saunders.

The Basics

Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (1-0) at Denver Nuggets (1-0)
When: 7:00 PM MT
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Where to watch: Altitude
Enemy Blog:
Canis Hoopus

Minnesota Timberwolves
Denver Nuggets Advantage
PG Ricky Rubio Emmanuel Mudiay Even
SG Andrew Wiggins Gary Harris Timberwolves
SF Tayshaun Prince Danilo Gallinari Nuggets
PF Kevin Garnett Kenneth Faried Nuggets
C Karl-Anthony Towns Joffrey Lauvergne Even
Bench Kevin Martin, Gorgui Deng,
Zach LaVine, Nemanja Bjilica
Jameer Nelson, Darrell Arthur,
Will Barton, Nikola Jokic, Randy Foye

Injured players: Wilson Chandler, hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic, knee (out),Nikola Pekovic, achilles (out)

Things to watch: Mudiay takes center stage

There will be plenty of opportunities to watch Mudiay play at Pepsi Center in a Nuggets uniform but there will only be one chance to watch him play his first game at The Can. By all accounts, tonight will be an incredibly special night. The Nuggets production crew always pulls out all of the stops for the first game of the year and tonight will be an especially big production. Among the many surprises, the team will likely launch their new 3D projection screen, which transforms the court into a 3D video before introducing the home team.

I remember the home opener in 2003 when the team introduced Carmelo Anthony and free agent acquisitions Marcus Camby and Andre Miller along with the rest of the Nuggets starters by having them walk down from the top of the lower level and onto the court. It was very theatrical and a moment I will never forget. Like this year’s team, that 2003 team had a rookie phenom and a mixture of young talent like Nene Hilario (now just Nene), and in their prime veterans like Marcus Camby and Andre Miller. That season led to 10 straight playoff appearances and the rejuvenation of the Nuggets franchise. Will tonight feel just as electric?

Key Matchup: Andrew Wiggins vs. Gary Harris

Wiggins struggled with his shot in the Wolves’ first game and was held to just 9 points on 2-10 shooting. He’ll certainly look to bounce back in tonight’s game but and he’ll be matched up against an emerging defensive star in Gary Harris. Harris locked up James Harden on Wednesday night but will once again have his hands full with a player that is capable of big scoring performances. The biggest issue Harris will have is with Wiggins’ size. At 6’8″ Wiggins has the ability to shoot over Harris from the perimeter and to post up against Harris inside. It will be interesting to see what Malone’s approach will be with guarding Wiggins and whether or not Harris is able to play extended minutes on him.

Other thing to watch: The Nuggets rotation and more small ball?
At practice yesterday, Malone said that he has a good idea of what his rotation will be but that it is "still a process." He mentioned that Wilson Chandler being out threw a bit of a wrench in that process but that he feels like he knows what combinations work and which ones don't well enough that the rotation is more or less set. That being said, he also said that "every game presents it's own problems." He added:

"Last night Nikola (Jokic) didn't play because (the Rockets) played so much small ball."

The Wolves have a fairly big team and play a lot of traditional, large post up lineups. It would seem that that would point toward more minutes for Joffrey Lauvergne and maybe even Jokic. It will be interesting to see how Malone juggles the lineup and if any players find themselves getting more or less court time. It might be that the Nuggets match their size or it might be that they test out their small ball lineup and try to run the Wolves off of the court.

Prediction: Mudiay has less than 11 turnovers.

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