Scouting Report: Wolves at Nuggets
Wolves (16-16) at Nuggets (17-15) - 8 PM Pepsi Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO
*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.
The Timberwolves reached their 16th win in 2010-11 in their 66th game and finished with 17 in an 82-game season. On Sunday against the 76ers, Minnesota reached its 16th win in 32 games, evened its record and put itself in position to again eclipse the .500 mark in 2011-12.
To do so, the Wolves will need to beat the Denver Nuggets on the road in their second game in as many nights. Minnesota tips off against Denver at 8 p.m. from Pepsi Center tonight in the two teams’ first meeting of the season.
The Nuggets are in a similar position as the Timberwolves heading into the All-Star Break. Denver is 17-15 and is tied for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Nuggets hold an 8-7 record at home compared to Minnesota’s 7-6 road mark, but are coming in on a 3-10 slide in their past 13 games. They are 1-5 in their last six home games.
The Nuggets weren’t quite as fortunate as Minnesota during their loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday. Like the Wolves, Denver had a chance to win at the buzzer but Ty Lawson’s jumper didn’t fall. The Thunder pulled out the 124-118 overtime win in Oklahoma City. Denver is 3-4 this season when playing in a second consecutive game in as many nights.
Key matchup: Rubio vs. Lawson
For the first time, Ricky Rubio and Ty Lawson--a pair of Wolves 2009 first round draft picks--will match up against each other on the floor. Rubio, selected fifth overall in 2009, will square off against 18th overall pick Lawson tonight in Denver. Rubio has been sensational in his rookie season, averaging 11.0 points and 8.6 assists this season. He’s coming off a career-high 22 points on Sunday, when he scored 14 first quarter points. He’s also second in the league with 2.39 steals per game.
Lawson, in his third season, is also putting up a strong season. He’s averaging a career-best 15.4 points and 6.3 assists per game this year and has five 20-plus point contests this winter. Lawson averaged 26.3 points and 6.7 assists in his three games against the Wolves last season, including a 37-point performance in a 130-106 win on April 9.
Last second heroics
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic looks to continue his streak of strong play for the Wolves. Pekovic has played 30 or more minutes in nine of the last 11 games. He scored 17 points and added nine boards on Sunday against the Sixers, and his 9-of-10 free throw shooting helped keep the Wolves in the game during a cold streak from the floor in the third quarter. Center Timofey Mozgov returned to the starting lineup on Sunday against Oklahoma City. Mozgov has played in two straight since missing seven games with an ankle injury. Kosta Koufos, who started the three previous games, shot 6-of-7 for 13 points and nine boards on Sunday, and two of his five games scoring in double figures this season have come in the past three contests.
Nuggets' injury woes Nene has missed four consecutive games for Denver with a calf injury. He’s started 23 games for the Nuggets this year and is the team’s leading rebounder with 7.8 per night. If he isn’t able to go for a fifth straight game, it could open the door for Pekovic and Love on the boards. Al Harrington, who averaged 14.1 points per game, is the team’s second leading rebounder at 5.9 boards per contest. Forward Danilo Gallinari, who leads Denver with 17.0 points per game, has missed the last seven games with a sprained left ankle. He isn't expected back until after the All-Star Break. Swingman Rudy Fernandez is listed as day to day with a lower back strain.
Defense is crucial
The Nuggets enter tonight’s game with the second best scoring offense in the league, averaging 103.4 points per night. Much of that has to do with the team’s ability to move the ball. Denver is second in the league with 22.7 assists per game and has six players averaging double digits points this season.
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