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Game Preview #70: Denver at Minnesota

The Wolves return to Minnesota for a stretch of three straight home games to close out the 2020-21 season.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Game Info

Who: Denver Nuggets (45-24) at Minnesota Timberwolves (22-47)
When: 7:00pm CST
TV: Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio

What To Watch For

After back-to-back blowout victories on the road, the Minnesota Timberwolves return home tonight for a stretch of three straight games at Target Center to close out the 2020-21 season. The Wolves’ opponent tonight is none other than the Denver Nuggets, and while this game doesn’t have as much juice and excitement as the infamous “Game 82” from a few years back, there are still plenty of enjoyable storylines that make tuning in well worth your time.

For starters, tonight will be a great test for Karl-Anthony Towns against the prohibited favorite for this year’s Most Valuable Player award, Nikola Jokic. These two franchise centers have had many battles in the past, and tonight should be no different. The Joker is having a career year for Denver, and is the key reason the Nuggets are positioned in the top four in the Western Conference.

Another storyline worth monitoring tonight is the continued growth and development of two rising stars — Anthony Edwards and Michael Porter, Jr. Anyone who has watched the Wolves knows just how good ANT has been lately, but it still stuns me after all these months to see statistics like this for a 19-year old:

Simply put, Anthony Edwards has been a completely different player over the second half of the season, and the former Georgia Bulldog is starting to put together an all-around game worthy of a franchise player. Will his last 30 or so games be enough to leap LaMelo Ball for Rookie of the Year honors? Only time will tell, but either way it looks like the Wolves officially struck gold with their first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, which should lead to an extremely bright future.

As for MPJ, he’s officially taken “the leap” from his first full year in the league to his second, increasing his points per game from 9.3 to 19.4 and his rebounds per game from 4.7 to 7.4. The former Missouri Tiger is also shooting a preposterous 45% from three (on 6.3 attempts per game) and is rapidly becoming yet another success story in the Denver development program. With Jamal Murray sidelined for the rest of the season due to his ACL injury, the Nuggets will need every ounce of MPJ’s talents if they want to make noise in the playoffs, and so far Porter, Jr. is showing he’s up to the challenge.

(Last minute injury update... apparently MPJ is “resting” tonight, which makes most of what I just said now meaningless. Either way, Go Ant!)

Injury Reports

No surprises here for Minnesota — the team has publicly stated that they had no desire to “tank” by sitting their top players, and that trend will continue tonight against Denver. I am still a tad skeptical that we see guys like Towns and Russell play in the back-to-back series finale over the weekend, but for now we can celebrate having a fairly healthy roster, one that has been humming lately on the offensive end.

As for Denver, they come into tonight’s game a tad more banged up, led obviously by Jamal Murray, who is out for the season:

The Murray ACL tear was absolutely brutal news when it happened, as the Nuggets had been putting together a truly special season. With Murray unfortunately out of the picture now, Denver has put even more pressure on guys like Jokic and Michael Porter, Jr., both of whom have stepped their games up yet another level in Murray’s absence.

After knocking off cellar-dwellers in the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, tonight’s matchup against a premier playoff team in the Western Conference should be a much better barometer of where exactly this Wolves roster is as they prepare for another crucial offseason.

Enjoy the game, thanks for supporting Canis, and have a great weekend!