Nuggets starting to find rhythm as T-Wolves come to town

Denver seeking to reach .500 mark after 0-3 start
by Aaron Lopez
Nuggets.com


The pace has picked up and the defense has clamped down. The effort and energy have become more consistent, along with the half-court offense.

Most importantly, the results are reflected on the scoreboard.

While still far from a polished product, the Denver Nuggets are starting to look more cohesive under first-year coach Brian Shaw.

After losing their first three games of the season, the Nuggets (3-4) will try to extend their winning streak to three games Friday night when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in a nationally televised game on ESPN.

“We’re starting to get it,” Shaw said after practice Thursday. “Our offensive numbers are starting to increase, and I anticipate them even increasing more with the addition of Wilson Chandler and his ability to knock down shots and space the floor. We’re still not there, but we’re making progress and that’s what I want to see.”

Chandler’s season debut couldn’t have gone much better. He scored 12 points in 21 minutes off the bench against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night and showed no lingering effects from the strained hamstring that sidelined him for six weeks.

The Nuggets remain without forward Danilo Gallinari (knee) and center JaVale McGee (fractured tibia).

“With everybody healthy, we’re a pretty good team,” Chandler said. “We can play with the best of them. It’s hard playing with a couple guys out. One guy comes in, another one goes out. You just have to have people step up and play that much harder.”

Denver will need another focused effort against the Timberwolves, who are off to a 6-3 start behind power forward Kevin Love. In nine games, Love is averaging 27.1 points and 14.2 rebounds.

“He’s really rounded out his game,” Shaw said. “He can stretch you out to the 3-point line. He can score facing up. He can score in the post with his back to the basket. Since Wes Unseld, I’ve never seen anybody that can rebound and just turn and throw a length-of-the-court outlet pass. He’s really turned into a helluva player, and I think he’s hungry because he missed most of last season with the injuries he had to endure.”

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried will draw the assignment of defending Love, and he’s not shying away from the challenge.

“I’m always fired up to play him,” Faried said. “It’s exciting. He’s a walking double-double. He can stretch the floor, and he’s a beast down low. It’s fun to play against that because I can test myself and see where I’m at in this league.”

Faried, aka The Manimal, has been a beast himself of late, averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds over the past two games. He capped the victory over L.A. with a follow dunk on Denver’s final possession.

“We came out strong and focused,” Faried said. “We’re just building on each and every game. People can see we’re getting better and better each game.”

Center Timofey Mozgov certainly fits in that category.

Mozgov, one of Denver’s hardest-working players, enjoyed his best game in a Nuggets uniform against Los Angeles. He was effective at both ends of the court, finishing with a career high-tying 23 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.

“The thing I’m most impressed with Timo about is he’s figured it out,” Shaw said. “He’s sat back and listened to what we’ve asked of our bigs. He’s doing everything that we’re asking him to do. His confidence is high. He’s continuing to get better and better.”

It seems to be a trend right now for the Nuggets.



TIMBERWOLVES AT NUGGETS

WHEN: 6 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver.
TV; RADIO: Altitude, ESPN; 104.3 FM, AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER (3-4)

F Jordan Hamilton
F Kenneth Faried
C J.J. Hickson
G Randy Foye
G Ty Lawson

MINNESOTA (6-3)
F Corey Brewer
F Kevin Love
C Nikola Pekovic
G Kevin Martin
G Ricky Rubio

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (fractured left tibia) are out.
MINNESOTA: Martin (flu) is questionable; Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow) are out.

SERIES NOTES
The Nuggets have won 21 of the past 25 meetings against the Timberwolves and 26 of 33 dating to the end of the 2004-05 season . . . Since the start of the 2005-06 season, Denver has gone 13-3 at Pepsi Center against Minnesota . . . Prior to the teams splitting 2-2 last season, the Nuggets had won five straight season series wins against the Wolves; they have now won six in the last eight years . . . On Dec. 10, 2008, former Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony tied an NBA record by scoring 33 points in the third quarter against the Timberwolves in Denver . . . In the first meeting between these teams in 2010-11, Kevin Love hung 43 points on the Nuggets to become the first ever Timberwolves player to score 40+ points against Denver during the regular season.

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