Wolves Hope To Slow Nuggets Down At Pepsi Center
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One of the three teams to beat the Nuggets on their home floor was the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan/ 3. This is a different-looking team heading into Saturday’s game, however.
“We had Kevin [Love], Andrei [Kirilenko] and Pek [Nikola Pekovic] that night,” coach Rick Adelman recalled at Friday’s practice. “I think that might have been the game Kevin got hurt, and he only played about half the game. But you know, we attacked them in that game.”
Although they will be missing those three starters on Saturday, the approach to containing Denver will remain the same. This is a team that ranks third in points scored per game and second in pace, and they love to push the tempo.
Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. on My29 and 830 WCCO-AM.
“They’re a tough team,” J.J. Barea said. “I watched them last night [against the Clippers], and they’re playing really good right now. [Ty] Lawson’s playing as one of the best point guards right now, so we just have to keep them away from the paint, make them a half-court team.”
Adelman echoed Barea’s remarks on controlling pace. This is a team that uses Lawson and Andre Iguodala to push while Danilo Gallinari waits on the wings to spot up.
“You have to make them an outside shooting team,” Adelman added. “If you let them get into the open floor... they ran the Lakers right off the court. You can’t turn it over, and you can’t take tough shots. We’ve been able to do that, we’ve beaten them twice, but it’s going to be even more important now being short-handed. We want to control the tempo and make sure we get good shots.”
Besides their guards and wings, Denver’s big men can run, too. Kenneth Faried is an aggressive, high-rising forward who nearly averages a double-double; time at center is split between Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee, the latter of whom is one of the most physically talented players in the league. It was recently revealed that McGee holds the longest wingspan (7 ft, 6.5 in) of any current NBA player, and he’s one of the best at finishing lobs and dunks.
“McGee is crazy athletic,” center Chris Johnson said. “I haven’t seen anything like that, so that will be different. You have to know certain situations, and you have to know what a guy likes to do. Make it difficult.”
One key to this late surge that the Nuggets are experiencing is their schedule. Of Denver’s first 30 games this year, 20 were on the road. They hovered around .500 for that stretch, and now of their most recent 30 games, just 11 have been on the road. They have since accumulated the fourth-most wins in the highly competitive Western Conference.
“Their schedule was absolutely brutal at the start of the year,” Adelman said. “They played so many road games. I always thought they were going to be one of the top teams in the West. Right now they’re just behind the Clippers and they’ve got one of the best home records in the league. So it doesn’t surprise me the way they’re playing.”
The Wolves are without three of their key players, and the Nuggets are hotter than ever. But Minnesota is coming off a rejuvenating win against Washington, and they’ve experienced past success against Denver both at home and on the road. It all adds up to make Saturday’s game an interesting matchup within the Northwest Division.