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Coming off a disheartening loss to the Orlando Magic, the Nuggets look to avenge their home court with a win against the Timberwolves team that blew them out on Oct. 30th. Both young teams have grown throughout the season and tonight’s game will prove to be a good measuring stick of progress.
|Regular Season Game 23
|7 p.m. MT
|Altitude, Fox Sports North Plus, KRWZ 960AM, 830 WCCO
What went wrong?
Flashback to last match-up, the Nuggets were coming off their season opener with spirits high in the sky, full of optimism after an unforeseen win against the preseason darling Houston Rockets. Karl-Anthony Towns then proceeded to bring the Nuggets back down to reality and made sure everyone knew why he was the number one overall pick, dominating the Nuggets frontcourt to the tune of 28 points (on 11-19 shooting), 14 rebounds and 4 blocks. The Minnesota big man gave the Nuggets frontcourt trouble on defense all night long with his shooting touch, taking advantage of the players’ reluctance to stray from the rim:
Towns also made the Nuggets think twice about driving into the paint as he roamed the paint effectively and frighteningly:
If the Nuggets are to have any success stopping Towns, the big men will have to venture into uncomfortable waters away from the paint and take away his jumper. Just another day in 2015’s space-and-pace league. Armed with a mentor who will do whatever it takes to push him, the sky is the limit for the 20-year-old phenom with a skillset that’s molded for today’s brand of basketball.
The Nuggets will also have to just flat out shoot better than they did last time:
The return of the King
King Joffrey is expected to come back into action after resting with illness last game against the Magic. He’ll give the Nuggets much needed grit in the paint as well as the ability to stretch the floor with his shot (4-7 from beyond the arc this season).
— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) December 10, 2015
Perhaps the most important aspect of tonight’s game is that Harris is expected to play after resting the last five games from a concussion suffered on Nov. 27th against the San Antonio Spurs. The Nuggets will stand to benefit massively from his defense and shot-making (a remarkable 43.8% from beyond the arc, up from 20.4% last season). Even more importantly, it means less minutes for Randy Foye.
Injury report: Jusuf Nurkic – out (rehabbing from patella tendon surgery in his left knee), Wilson Chandler – out (right hip surgery), Joffrey – questionable (illness), Darrell Arthur – questionable (knee soreness), Harris – probable (concussion)
Mudiay needs to bounce back from his struggles and answer Mike Malone’s call for better play. Many people despise Malone’s decision to bench Mudiay in crunch-time but I like the idea of him challenging Mudiay to improve early in his career. Mudiay needs to be pushed and that’s exactly what Malone is doing.
Harris will look to get back into action with yet another tough assignment as he attempts to contain the Wolves go-to scorer in Wiggins. I’m excited to see Harris back in the mix as Foye would get absolutely destroyed in this match-up.
Gallinari needs to continue playing team basketball instead of trying to be a hero when times get rough for the Nuggets. Sometimes it works but oftentimes it destroys the offensive flow and causes other players to imitate it. The Italian Stallion is at his best when he’s using his all-around game, driving and play-making instead of shooting contested long mid-range shots.
Faried will need to exploit Garnett’s age and make him work all game long on offense, defense and the boards. He also needs to not underestimate the old man because KG still has hops:
Will Barton will need to continue his onslaught as he continues being the Nuggets unheralded best player through the first quarter of the season. A surprising knock down shooter (40% from beyond the arc) and a one-man terror in transition, Barton will feast on a Timberwolves team that is third worst in the league at defending the fast break (1.17 points per possession).
Rubio will match-up against his mirror image, a gifted passer who isn’t a threat to score. Rubio is shooting a paltry 33.6% from the field this season including 14.8% from downtown so Mudiay has a little bit of leeway with gambling the passing lanes. Look for Mudiay to help on defense often as well as grab a couple of steals with his huge wingspan.
Wiggins is leading the Timberwolves in scoring (21 ppg) and will look to run right over the rusty Harris. Luckily for the Nuggets’ inability to defend the three point line, Wiggins is not yet a knock down shooter (26.8% from 3).
Tayshaun’s only job will be to make things difficult on Gallo and his gargantuan 7-2 wingspan will play a huge part in that. Expect Prince to give Gallinari fits with his length all night long and hope Gallo doesn’t take it personal and start shooting contested shots.
Garnett will continue to lead the Timberwolves both on the court and off as he essentially quarterbacks the defense a la Kenyon Martin when he played in Denver for George Karl. KG is also capable of hitting the midrange so Faried will have to get used to being a little further out on the perimeter than he’s comfortable with.
Towns is the key to all of this as stopping him would go a long way to securing a victory. His defense and offense are already at a nice level in the NBA at just 20-years-old. Timberwolves fans should be ecstatic to watch this kid grow for years to come.
Martin is the man the Nuggets will need to keep an eye on as he traditionally kills them with his shooting and knack for drawing fouls. The bench will need to stick on him the entire night lest he catch fire in a hurry and put the game out of reach.
Tip off is tonight at 7:00 p.m. MT.