What To Watch For
The Minnesota Timberwolves are back in action tonight after a few well-deserved days off. On the heels of an impressive victory over the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday night, the Wolves will look to build off that momentum as they square off against another Northwest Division foe tonight in Denver.
There are very few teams in the NBA that would be considered true “rivals” for the Timberwolves, but these two Western Conference teams have had a fairly interesting history throughout the years, especially back in 2018 when Minnesota won the infamous “Game 82” contest that catapulted them into the playoffs and simultaneously eliminated the Nuggets.
Since the infamous “Game 82” win back on April 11, 2018, the Timberwolves have lost 12 straight games against the Denver Nuggets.— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) December 15, 2021
Will that streak come to an end tonight?
As I tweeted out earlier, since winning that game back in April of 2018, the Wolves have lost twelve straight games against Denver, one of their longer (active) losing streaks against any other NBA team. Both the Wolves and the Nuggets have had up-and-down seasons thus far — Minnesota’s rollercoaster season has been mostly due to inconsistent play, while Denver’s rollercoaster season has been about inconsistent player availability more than anything else.
The Nuggets entered the season already without Jamal Murray (who suffered a torn left ACL during the 2020-21 season), but have since then also suffered season-ending injuries to both P.J. Dozier (torn ACL) and Michael Porter, Jr. (back surgery). On top of that, JaMychal Green recently underwent surgery on his right ankle, leaving the team’s overall depth chart extremely thin (more on that in a minute).
Back to the Timberwolves — they haven’t been bitten nearly as hard by the injury bug as Denver, but the absence of Patrick Beverley and D’Angelo Russell earlier in the season has had a significant impact on the up-and-down nature of their performance. Throughout just 27 games, the Wolves have also suffered two 5+ game losing streaks, while also stringing together their longest winning streak since early 2018 (which ironically was the same season that they made their last playoff appearance).
Regardless of all of that, tonight should be another highly competitive (and highly entertaining) contest between Minnesota and Denver. Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns have had some serious battles in the past, and the higher altitude in Denver could potentially lead to Anthony Edwards jumping over someone as he looks to continue attacking the basket.
Minnesota @Timberwolves Status Report in advance of tomorrow’s game at Denver:— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) December 15, 2021
Russell - Right Ankle Soreness
Wright IV - G League Two-Way
Despite playing (and playing well!) on Sunday against the T-Blazers, D’Angelo Russell is once against listed as QUESTIONABLE for tonight’s game. As someone who watched Russell up close and personal over the weekend, I would be shocked if he doesn’t suit up tonight, but we will likely have confirmation one way or another leading up to tipoff.
As for Denver:
Nuggets Injury report for tomorrow vs Minnesota:— Katy Winge (@katywinge) December 14, 2021
Aaron Gordon (low back pain) PROBABLE
Will Barton (non-covid illness) PROBABLE
Austin River (health and safety protocols) QUESTIONABLE (he was in street clothes on the bench last night)
JaMychal Green (ankle) OUT
As mentioned previously, Denver was already scheduled to be without the services of Jamal Murray, P.J. Dozier, Michael Porter, Jr., and JaMychal Green, but it does look like they will get some reinforcements back tonight with Aaron Gordon and Will Barton (as well as maybe Austin Rivers). The Nuggets are coming off of an impressive win on Monday at home against the Washington Wizards and will look to continue their recent string of great play after they themselves lost six straight games back in the middle of November.
Prediction time — very few things in my life have gone as well recently as my Timberwolves picks against the spread, and I once again like them tonight at +4. Despite an extremely difficult December schedule, things have opened up slightly this week with tonight’s game against a banged up Nuggets team followed by a home game on Friday against a disappointing Lakers team, so I like the “rollercoaster” trend to continue this week as the Wolves string together a few victories before likely matching those wins with a few losses next week. Wolves 121, Nuggets 113.