The Minnesota Timberwolves are coming off their worst outing of the season on Wednesday night following that 22-point loss to the Utah Jazz. They're in need of a quick bounce back win and luckily they have that opportunity just one night later, vs. the Nuggets in Denver tonight.
The TWolves fell back to .500 on the season with last night's loss, they're now 14-14 on the year, 5-10 on the road, 8-7 vs. Western Conference foes, 2-3 vs. Northwest Division rivals, 5-5 in their last 10 games and currently ranked #9 in the Western Conference standings.
The Nuggets are 18-15 on the year, 10-1 at home, 13-9 vs. the Western Conference, 2-3 vs. Northwest Division rivals, 7-3 in their last 10 games and currently ranked #7 in the Western Conference standings.
These two teams have met twice already this season (Nov. 21st & Dec. 12th), with both teams grabbing a win. These two meet four times total this season (with the last matchup coming on March 9th).
If Minnesota turns in another effort (if you can call it that) like they did in Utah, it's not going to be a joyful Thursday night for Wolves fans. I may not watch the whole game if I'm seeing another outing like last night, that game in Utah was just painful to watch.
Kevin Love continues to struggle to find his shot, he went 4-for-14 in last night's contest, including 0-for-4 from three. The Wolves have a very good team, with a lot of talented players, however the fact is: Minnesota will lose more games than not when Kevin Love struggles like this. He's their star and if they're giving him 14 shots in a game and he only hits 4 of them, nine times out of ten the Wolves will lose. It's not as simple as not allowing him to take those shots though. Without Love shooting threes, opposing teams will simply pack the paint and Nikola Pekovic will get double and triple teamed in the post. Kevin Love's all-around game opens up a lot of opportunities for other guys on this team--wide open threes for Alexey, an oop to AK or a floater from Cool Hand Luke; until Kevin Love can consistently and efficiently score the basketball, the Wolves will continue to hover around .500.
Let's get a look at tonight's injury report...
For MINNESOTA: You can find our full injury report under the 'Team Report' section on this site. A short summary: Ricky Rubio out with back spasms, Brandon Roy/Malcolm Lee/Chase Budinger all out with knee injuries.
For DENVER: Third string point guard Juylan Stone and sixth man swingman Wilson Chandler are both still recovering from hip surgeries. Stone hasn't played at all this season and is hoping to start practicing sometime this month. Chandler has participated in practices and shootarounds the past week or so, he's currently targeting a return to the lineup on Jan. 13th. Ty Lawson missed the Nuggets' last game vs. the Clippers on Tuesday. He was diagnosed with a strained achilles on Wednesday. He was initially listed as doubtful, but has recently been 'upgraded' to a game-time decision for this one. If he's unable to play, Andre Miller will get his second consecutive start (he did well vs. the Clippers finishing with 12pts, 3reb, 12ast & 1stl).
The Nuggets are currently a playoff team out West, but they are one of the eight teams that are currently competing for the last four playoff spots in the West (5, 6, 7, 8 seeds). Currently the Dallas Mavericks (12), Los Angeles Lakers (11), Utah Jazz (10) and Minnesota Timberwolves (9) are sitting outside of the playoff picture looking in, while the Portland Trailblazers (8), Denver Nuggets (7), Houston Rockets (6) and Golden State Warriors (5) are in the playoffs. In comparison, the Mavericks are only 4 games behind the Blazers for that 8th spot. As the next few weeks play out, it likely won't be this close as teams get better (Mavericks with Dirk? Lakers figuring it out? Rubio & Love return to form & dominate?) and some of those top teams are exposed (Houston can't sustain this without playing defense, the Blazers don't have a second unit and should should fall pretty far down in the standings, etc.).
These types of games vs. opponents that you'll be competing with come playoff time for the final spots in the West are VERY important. That's why yesterday's loss the Utah Jazz hurts that much more.
The Nuggets' last game came on New Years Day when they faced the Los Angeles Clippers in Denver. In that game, the Nuggets snapped the Clippers' big winning streak (stopped at 17 games) with a convincing 92-78 win. Danilo Gallinari finished with 17pts, 6reb, 1ast, 1stl, 1blk; Kenneth Faried added 14pts, 11reb, 2stls, 1blk; Miller started for the injured Lawson and added 12pts, 3reb, 12ast, 1stl and Andre Iguodala ended the night with a great all-around game: 12pts, 7reb, 8ast and 2stls.
Let's take a look at tonight's likely starting lineups...
If Ty Lawson (13.6ppg, 6.9apg, 1.2spg) is able to play expect him to start at point guard in this one.
The key matchup of this one will be Danilo vs. Andrei. Kirilenko is a great defensive player and he'll be going up against Denver's best offensive weapon: Gallinari. I think AK will do a pretty decent job holding him in check, he's certainly not the best small forward that AK has faced this season.
There are two matchups I'm a little concerned with. The first is Shved vs. Iguodala. These are two completely opposite players, one relying on his ball handling, three-point to mid-range shot and court vision to be an effective player (Shved) and the other a defensive ace, who is extremely strong for his position that can easily muscle his way into the paint for highlight reel dunks (Iguodala). Mainly the concern lies with whether or not Shved has the strength to guard AI in this one. The other matchup that holds some concern is Kevin Love vs. Kenneth Faried. The last time these two teams played Faried scored 26 points (14 of which came in the first quarter). Kenneth isn't known as a great offensive player, but he certainly seemed like it in that Dec. 12th matchup. The Wolves also played the Nuggets on Nov. 21st and Faried finished with just 4 points--we'll see which one shows up tonight vs. the Wolves.
That's all I've got for now, tipoff is set for 8pmCT, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!