What to Look for in the Nuggets Game Against Minnesota

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

For the first time this season, the Nuggets get a glimpse of the new-look – and vastly improved -- Minnesota Timberwolves. At 18-13, Minnesota is off to its best start through 31 games since the 2012-13 season, and it is just the third time in the last 10 seasons that the Timberwolves even have a winning record at this point.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are one of the NBA’s best home teams, compiling an 11-2 record at the Pepsi Center so far this season. The Nuggets have won eight straight home games, and have not lost one since Nov. 4.

So what do the Nuggets need to do in order to win an important game against a division opponent? Start with these things…

Get off to a good start: The first quarter has been a mixed bag for the Nuggets this season, as they’ve had some good starts and some slow starts. Tonight, they’ll need to lock in early on because Minnesota has proven to be a hot-starting team. In fact, in the last 12 games, the Wolves are averaging over 28 points and are shooting 52 percent in the opening quarter. We’ve seen the Nuggets dig out of early deficits to win games this season, but playing from the lead will give them a much better chance of weathering any storm and quickly regaining control of the game.

Get Will Barton back to scoring: Monday night was a tough shooting night for Will Barton, the reserve guard with a knack for scoring in bunches and a flare for the dramatic. Barton made just 2-of-15 shots in the game against Minnesota, including 0-of-8 from the 3-point line. He has scored in double figures in seven of his last nine games, averaging 17.8 points, 5.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds in that span. Barton has shot the ball well at the Pepsi Center this season, with averages of 49.3 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point line.

Be strong against a varied pick-and-roll. Minnesota is not only a heavy pick-and-roll team, but its ball handlers are threats to score each time they turn the corner off of the screen. Point guard Jeff Teague is a crafty player. Jimmy Butler is strong. Andrew Wiggins is explosive, and Jamal Crawford is savvy. Toss in Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson as the bigs on those screen rolls, and there is the potential for many different combinations the Nuggets must sort through.

INJURY REPORT: Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle) is questionable for the game. Gary Harris (elbow) is a game-time decision.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.