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Nuggets at Wolves: Round Two

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It’s the second matchup between the divisional foes, one that pits KAT vs. Jokic yet again. The two look to continue their rivalry in Minnesota tonight.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Nuggets (19-15) at Minnesota Timberwolves (21-13)

7:00 P.M. CST

Fox Sports North

The Wolves are back home, albeit for a brief moment, and the team is sporting a slick four-game winning streak. The last three of those came on the road and the entire streak was against Western Conference opponents, improving the team’s record to 18-6 against the west.

Two of those wins were against division rivals in Portland and Denver. The Nuggets will look to avenge that tonight here at Target Center.

It’s always an interesting game when the Wolves are taking on the mile-high club. KAT and Nikola Jokic have a rivalry brewing, if it hasn’t already coalesced. Both are in their third season, both are 22 years old, and both are great examples of the game-changing, modern big man.

Those really aren’t the reasons why they are butting heads, but they definitely add to the story. These two have had really physical games against one another since joining the NBA and, because of proximity, have seen each other a fair amount.

In a game last season, things got so chippy that KAT requested Andrew Wiggins to end Jokic’s life via dunk:

OK, maybe he didn’t request it but Wiggins’ very non-Wiggins like reaction had me thinking that dunk meant a lot more than just two points.

Rivalries are always fun when it comes to player versus player. It transcends stuff like geography and is much more personal. In the new AAU dominated world of basketball, a lot of these players get to know each other and become friends, even if they are never playing along side one another.

A lot of people look back to the 80’s and 90’s as the golden age of basketball. They point to the player rivalries as one thing that ‘made it better’ than what we see today. Just ask the abysmal TNT announcing crew from the Lakers game the other night and you’ll get your other reasons on why it was better then.

Looking at the past with rose colored glasses (#NotMyNBA) can cause eye-rolls, but I will admit it’s fun to see players actually go at one another and not be all chummy after the game. These story lines are what makes the NBA so popular. The players are so much more available and the ratings this year are showing it’s good business.

So what can we expect for tonight? We can expect KAT to be angry from the minute this game starts. That is good, yep, very good. Angry Towns > Regular Towns. Got it?

In the first game, Denver was missing Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap. This time around, they have the first two back, though Mudiay played in only two minutes in his return last night.

Harris will look to start again which is a welcome addition considering they don’t have much depth to contain both Jimmy Butler and Wiggins.

We will have to see if Nemanja Bjelica gets more minutes tonight as he only had five in his return against the Lakers. I am sure we will see more but not by much.

With the team at home and the Nuggets on a back-to-back, I am optimistic the Wolves can handle their business. MAD KAT IS BEST KAT.

Projected Starting Lineups

Wolves

Jeff Teague

Jimmy Butler

Andrew Wiggins

Taj Gibson

Karl-Anthony Towns

Nuggets

Jamal Murray

Gary Harris

Wilson Chandler

Nikola Jokic

Mason Plumlee

Prediction:

Wolves 118, Nuggets 112: KAT will channel all of his Jokic-caused anger into a near triple-double with 25 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists leading his team to victory.