Preview: Nuggets look to win 10th-straight game vs. Timberwolves

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

Although the game was in doubt for the first three quarters, the Denver Nuggets broke out in a major way in the fourth quarter of their 124-109 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves (2-4) Sunday, which bodes well for Tuesday’s rematch.

A 41-point outburst over the final 12 minutes gave Denver (2-4) its second win of the season, and was fueled by hot 3-point shooting, especially from Facundo Campazzo, who knocked down five 3-pointers in Sunday’s contest. Nikola Jokić had yet another triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists, while Jamal Murray poured in a season-high 36 points.

Both teams will matchup against each other once again on Tuesday, only this time at Ball Arena in Denver.

Projected starters: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton III, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokić

Injury report:

OUT: Michael Porter (NWT – Health and safety protocols), Greg Whittington (left knee strain)

TUNE IN: 7 p.m. MT, Altitude TV, 92.5FM

Here are the storylines to watch:

Key matchup: Jamal Murray vs. D’Angelo Russell

Tuesday’s contest pits the two young guards up against each another again, with Russell hoping for more success in the matchup this time around.

Russell didn’t have a poor performance in Sunday’s game, scoring 18 points to go along with seven assists on solid efficiency (7 of 15 from the floor), but he did commit three turnovers and was a -21 in his 30 minutes of action.

On the other hand, Murray was extremely efficient, scoring those aforementioned 36 points on 13-of-20 shooting. The 23-year-old guard also didn’t commit a turnover or foul in his 36 minutes of action, eventually finishing +9 in his time on the floor in Sunday’s win.

Both guards are significant drivers of offense for their respective teams, so look for this matchup to play a key role in deciding the outcome of Tuesday’s game.

Can Denver’s bench build on Sunday’s success?

One of the major storylines in Sunday’s contest was Denver’s second-unit thriving after enduring some early-season struggles. Led by Campazzo, JaMychal Green and Monte Morris, the Nuggets got 47 points from their bench, compared to 35 from Minnesota’s second-unit.

Campazzo (15 points), Green (14 points, five rebounds, and three assists), and Morris (11 points and six assists) were effective in knocking down shots and moving the ball to keep the offense flowing.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone shortened the rotation on Sunday, opting to play those three alongside PJ Dozier as the four players off the bench. This could be a trend to keep an eye on, especially with the return of JaMychal Green, who has provided a nice boost over the past two games.

The veteran forward has averaged 11 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game over his first two games of the season, which includes 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Protect the paint

Although Sunday’s matchup ended as a convincing win for Denver, Minnesota was able to hold a significant advantage in paint points. The Timberwolves outscored the Nuggets 64-42 from that area of the floor, which has continued to a troubling trend for Denver to begin the season.

Although opponents haven’t attempted a large percentage of their shots around the rim against Denver to begin this season, they are certainly converting on those attempts. Teams have shot 74.1 percent around the rim against the Nuggets this season, which ranks 29th in the league. Furthermore, opponents have shot 45.2 percent from the short-mid range of the floor (classified as beyond four feet but inside of about 14 feet away from the rim).

Denver was able to make up the stark difference in paint points Sunday through elite 3-point shooting. The Nuggets knocked down a season-high 19 3-pointers, which was 10 more than Minnesota. However, for Denver’s defense to stabilize after a slow start, limiting opponent effectiveness inside the paint will be crucial.

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