Scouting Report: Wolves at Nuggets

Wolves (25-33) at Nuggets (31-26) - 8 PM Pepsi Center
Where to Watch: No Local/NBA League Pass
Champps Americana Restaurant in Eden Prairie viewing party begins at 7:30 PM
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

Timberwolves Game Notes

*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.

Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said after Monday’s game against Phoenix that the team’s stretch of upcoming games is chock full of teams playing for playoff position and that all of them will carry that level of importance.

Tonight’s game at Denver is a prime example. The Wolves and Nuggets square off at 8 p.m. at Pepsi Center, and Denver is currently situated one game ahead of the Suns for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With Phoenix currently surging and Denver playing .500 ball over the last month—they are 9-9 since March 7—each game becomes more and more important as the regular season draws to a close.

The Wolves are on a six-game losing streak, their longest of the season, and tonight against their Northwest Division rival the main objective is getting back into the wins column. The two teams are 1-1 against one another this season—Denver won a 103-101 overtime matchup on Feb. 20, and Minnesota earned a 117-100 victory on March 25—so both teams are coming in looking to take the season series lead tonight.

Denver is currently 3-7 against the Northwest this season and is 17-12 at Pepsi Center. The Wolves hold a 4-6 divisional record and are 12-18 on the road this year.

Last time out

Wolves forward Kevin Love continued his March tear during the two teams’ last meeting, finishing with 30 points and adding 21 rebounds in a 17-point victory over the Nuggets two and a half weeks ago. Love was an efficient 11-for-19 from the floor, perfect from the line (7-for-7) and brought down seven offensive boards in the game. The monster performance came two days after Love scored a franchise record 51 points against the Thunder. Meanwhile, Luke Ridnour had 25 points and three different Wolves players scored in double figures off the bench: Wayne Ellington had 17, Michael Beasley had 11 and Anthony Tolliver had 10. The Nuggets were without two of tonight’s probable starters as forward Danilo Gallinari (injury) and guard Arron Afflalo (suspension) did not play. Forward Kenneth Faried led the way with 17 points, while guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller each had 14.

Key matchup: Kevin Love vs. Kenneth Faried

It’s no secret Love is one of the game’s top scorers and rebounders this season. He’s second in the league in rebounding (13.5 RPG) and fourth in scoring (26.5 PPG) this season and is the league’s leader with 48 double-doubles. But he’ll have his hands full tonight with Faried, a rookie who has shown glimpses throughout the season of how tough he can be in the paint. Faried is coming off a 27-point, 17-rebound effort—both career highs—against Golden State on Monday in which he played only 24 minutes. He had 10 points and 14 boards in his first meeting with Minnesota in February, and in that particular game he crashed the offensive boards with authority in the second half of a game eventually headed to overtime.

The numbers game

The last time these two teams met, the Nuggets shot 50 percent from the floor, held a 29-2 advantage in fast break points and outscored the Wolves 64-38 in the paint, yet Minnesota led throughout and cruised to a 117-100 victory. A lot of that had to do with Love’s 30-20 performance and a productive day from the Wolves’ bench. Tonight, Minnesota will need to control the paint better than last game, and they’ll have help in that department as center Nikola Pekovic will be in the lineup. Pekovic missed that last meeting with an ankle injury, but his bruising 6-foot-11, 290-pound frame should make an impact in the lane tonight.

Afflalo heating up

Wolves Minute with John Focke

Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo is heating up in the month of April. Through five games he’s having his best statistical scoring month of the season, averaging 19.6 points per game while tacking on 4.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds. He’s shooting 45 percent from 3-point range and is connecting on 89.5 percent of his free throws—that’s up from 69 percent in January. Afflalo had 30 points and drained five 3-pointers in a 105-99 victory over the Suns on April 6.

Gallinari’s injury-plagued season

When forward Danilo Gallinari has been on the court this year, he’s been a productive member of the Nuggets front court. The problem is Gallinari has had trouble staying in the lineup. He’s missed 23 games this season, most recently a 10-game stretch with a broken left thumb before returning to the lineup against Golden State on Monday. He hasn’t played against the Wolves yet this season, but when he’s on the court he’s averaging 15.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He scored 18.6 points per game in January and looked to be on pace to do the same in February before missing 13 straight games with a sprained ankle.

Injury report

The Nuggets have three players listed on their injury report for tonight. Forward Al Harrington is listed as probable with a knee strain, forward Wilson Chandler is questionable with a hip strain and guard Rudy Fernandez is out indefinitely with a lower back strain. The Wolves will be without guard Luke Ridnour (sprained right ankle) and center Darko Milicic (right hamstring), who did not travel with the team.

Catch tonight’s Wolves game at Champps in Eden Prairie

Tonight’s game against Denver is not on local television, but you can still catch all the action. Join the Wolves for their viewing party at Champps Americana Restaurant in Eden Prairie. They’ll be there starting at 7:30 p.m. giving away prizes, autographed items and tickets to see the WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx play this summer.

You can become a part of the Wolves Radio Network by Howling at the Wolves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio or @JWFocke and Studio Host John Focke and Coach Steve Brown will answer them on 830 WCCO and the Wolves Radio Network.
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.