Wolves (10-21) vs Nuggets (13-18)
8:00 PM CST
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
Tonight, the Timberwolves will face one of their current contemporaries, or what should be an equivalent team, in the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have won four out their last six games and are currently just one game out of the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Their current hot streak has coincided with a tinkering of their starting lineup, finally removing the disastrous pairing on Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic, as Nurkic has been moved to the bench and Jokic has been starting next to a small-ball four with Wilson Chandler sliding up a position.
Nurkic’s move to the bench has brought along with it several DNP-CDs in the last few games, which suggests that the Nuggets are almost certainly keeping this lineup change moving forward. This is good and bad for the Wolves tonight, as the last game they played the Nuggets, the team was completely unable to handle Nurkic’s interior scoring, an issue that cropped up recently against Enes Kanter. Small-ball Power Forwards have also given the Timberwolves’ defense fits and the new Nuggets’ starting lineup will certainly give the Timberwolves challenges on defense.
However, the Nuggets are fairly similar to the Wolves. They currently have the 11st best offensive rating in the league, Timberwolves have 10th, while their defensive rating is 24th, Timberwolves have moved up to 26th. The Nuggets play much faster, with the 5th highest pace in the league, which reportedly the Timberwolves are trying to get closer to. They also crash the boards on offensive, with the 2nd highest offensive rebound rate in the league, the Timberwolves are 3rd in the league.
The Nuggets also have their own set of young guards that they are trying to figure out with Emannuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris. Mudiay’s struggles from his rookie year have continued during his sophomore campaign, but Murray has caught fire of late after his slow start to his rookie season.
The Timberwolves are currently riding their own “hot streak”, going 4-3 in the last 7 games, with the only noncompetitive game coming against the Thunder on Christmas Day. Outside of that Thunder game, the defense has looked noticeably improved and things look like they are starting to “click,” although we are well aware that this sentiment can disappear as quickly as it has came if the team goes through another rough patch.
The Wolves’ have a relatively soft schedule the next few games and it would be great to pick up another victory against a team that they should be competing against for the 8th playoff spot.
Matchup of the Game
While it will be delightful to see Towns and Jokic face off, as the two are part of the “Big-Man Renaissance” that will shape the NBA’s future, the game will likely be decided by how the Timberwolves handle Chandler/Gallinari at the Power Forward position. The Wolves are one of the few teams left in the NBA that play a traditional two-big lineup and the Nuggets’ recent success has been attributed to finally moving away from those lineups. Dieng and Towns will have to work hard to protect the interior as well as defend out on the perimeter, a challenge of which they have been largely unsuccessful at meeting so far.
Team EFG Percentage
Timberwolves: 50.2 percent
Nuggets: 50.2 percent
Team Free Throw Rate
Timberwolves: 23 percent
Nuggets: 22.7 percent
Team Turn Over Percentage
Timberwolves: 13.6 percent
Nuggets: 13.9 percent
Team Offensive Rebounding
Timberwolves: 27.9 percent
Nuggets: 28.4 percent