Scouting Report: Wolves at Nuggets
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Wolves (14-14) vs Nuggets (18-15) — 8:00 PM Pepsi Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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Each night after all the NBA games are complete, the Western Conference standings play musical chairs. With only two games separating the sixth through 11th place teams in the West, each game adds heightened importance in trying to secure one of those eight playoff spots at the end of the year.
The Timberwolves know it, and that’s why tonight’s game in Denver just gained a little extra importance.
Minnesota fell 106-84 on the road on Wednesday to a Utah Jazz team that was 2-7 in its previous nine games, and that loss dropped the Wolves out of the eighth spot into ninth in the west. Sitting at 14-14, Minnesota looks to jump above .500 again tonight when they take on the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.
The Wolves got down early and never recovered against Utah. The Jazz took advantage of two key areas, winning the points in the paint battle 56-36 and holding a 25-6 fast break points edge. Minnesota, on the other hand, shot 2-of-17 from 3-point range and couldn’t climb back after the Jazz mounted a 22-point lead in the second half. Kevin Love and Alexey Shved led the team with 13 points each, while Andrei Kirilenko added 12 points and grabbed his 4,000th career rebound and Nikola Pekovic chipped in 11 points of his own.
‘It’s just one of those games where you have some reason you couldn’t make a shot or like five, six possessions in a row you couldn’t put it on in a lay-up,” Kirilenko said. “You couldn’t get on the line. It’s all together, kind of like an avalanche.”
It won’t get any easier in the Mile High City tonight, as Denver has again nestled into a pretty distinct home court advantage at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets are 10-1 at home this year.
Denver is putting together a nice season. They’re sitting at second in the Northwest Division behind Oklahoma City, and they’re eighth in the league in scoring (101.6 PPG) and fifth in pace. Three of their last four games have been assertive wins of more than 10 points over the Lakers, Mavericks and Clippers, respectively.
The Nuggets are known for their rebounding, as they’re averaging the most boards per game of any team in the league with 46.3. They’re led by Kenneth Faried, an explosive and athletic forward who pulls down 10.2 RPG to go along with his 12.2 PPG. Faried is a hustle player that any team would love to add to their rotation. The Nuggets have six players averaging over five boards per contest.
Danilo Gallinari is enjoying a career year for his scoring average, putting up 15.9 PPG—including a 39-point outburst against Dallas on December 28 where he made seven 3-pointers. Right behind him is Andre Iguodala, who is averaging 13.8 PPG, and guard Ty Lawson, who is scoring 13.6 PPG but sat out their last contest with an Achilles injury.
Last Time Out: December 12, 2012
The Timberwolves learned from their mistakes during their loss to Denver three weeks prior and stifled a late comeback on Dec. 12 to come away with a 108-105 victory.
“Their history is that they come at you, and they don't stop playing," Adelman said after the game. “We kind of gave it away at the end, but we did enough to win it."
Up by as much as 14 with less than eight minutes remaining, the Timberwolves let the Nuggets creep back to within two points in the game’s closing seconds. But strong defensive play at the end and key free throws from J.J. Barea sealed the win for Minnesota.
While Kevin Love had a poor night shooting (just 3-for-17 from the field), his fellow post player Pekovic enjoyed a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Luke Ridnour also had 15 points, including the team’s only two 3-pointers. The win put Minnesota at 1-1 on the year against Utah; the first contest was a 101-94 home loss on November 21 where Love made his surprise season debut after hand surgery.
Key Matchup: JaVale McGee vs. Dante Cunningham
When the Wolves were rolling earlier in the season, a lot of the energy the team fed off of came from forward Dante Cunningham. Cunningham has the ability to enter games and make his presence felt with his defensive intensity and his knack for crashing the boards. Against this Nuggets team, he’ll need to bring both in order to combat Denver’s massive presence on the boards. When Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic get their rest in this game, Minnesota’s reserves must find a way to continue pestering the Nuggets defensively and corralling rebounds. Cunningham will be an important part of the second unit’s efforts in that department.
On the Nuggets’ bench, JaVale McGee has put together a pair of really solid games for the Nuggets in their past two contests. He scored 12 points, added nine boards and had six blocked shots in a loss to Memphis on Saturday night, and he followed it up with 11 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in a win over the Clippers on New Year’s Day. McGee is a long 7-foot center who can impact a game on both ends of the floor with his scoring down low and his ability to contest shots. He already has 11 games this year in which he’s collected at least three blocked shots, and he’s averaging 10.7 points and 5.2 rebounds off the bench.
Same situation for the Timberwolves tonight as Ricky Rubio did not make the trip and will be unavailable. Lazar Hayward got a few minutes late in Wednesday’s loss to Utah, but at this juncture it looks like Adelman will likely stick with his three healthy guards Luke Ridnour, Alexey Shved and JJ Barea as his primary back court rotation.
The Nuggets will be without small forward Wilson Chandler (hip, groin) and point guard Julyan Stone (hip) until approximately mid-January, but the big question for tonight’s game is whether or not point guard Ty Lawson will play. He sat out Tuesday’s game with a strain in his left Achilles tendon, and he is officially listed as questionable tonight. In his absence on Tuesday, Andre Miller got the start against Los Angeles.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Luke Ridnour||Ty Lawson*|
|SG||Alexey Shved||Andre Iguodala|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Danilo Gallinari|
|PF||Kevin Love||Kenneth Faried|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Kosta Koufos|
*-Questionable for tonight with left Achilles tendon strain