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Game Preview: What to Watch for in the Nuggets Game at Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS – A late-night flight to Minneapolis and temperatures in the negatives greeted the Nuggets on Wednesday in advance of their game against the Timberwolves, the second in this set of back-to-back games.
It is also the second time the Nuggets have faced Minnesota in the last week, and they are looking for a little revenge – the Wolves beat the Nuggets in Denver, 112-104 on Dec. 20.
Since then, however, the Nuggets have not lost a game, winners of three straight coming into today’s contest. Their 19-15 record is good for sixth in the Western Conference and that is even having played a heavy road schedule. This is the 20th road game for the Nuggets. No other team has played more road games than they have. The Nuggets have played basically half of their road games in the first two-and-a-half months of the season.
Because of that, and recent success in a road back-to-back with wins at Portland and Golden State, they come into Minnesota with confidence.
“The team’s confidence is at a season high right now,” forward Trey Lyles said. “I think (Wednesday) we’ll be able to show what we’re capable of on back-to-backs and show that last weekend wasn’t a fluke.”
The Nuggets have lost three straight to the Timberwolves, but have won six of the last 10 matchups and have won five of the last six games played in Minnesota. How do the Nuggets win again? Start with these things…
Bring your defense: The Nuggets have turned up the defense, big-time, in the last three games. The Nuggets have allowed just 83.0 points per game on 37.6 percent from the field and 22.6 percent from the 3-point line in those contests. And that defense has traveled – they held Portland and Golden State to low point totals on their home courts. Do that again, and the Nuggets will have a great chance to win their third straight road game.
Have a plan for pick-and-roll involving Karl-Anthony Towns: Towns was a terror as the roll man in screen-roll actions in the fourth quarter against the Nuggets last week. The Nuggets blitzed the ball-handler to force passes, and those passes got through to Towns who had straight line drives to the rim. Defensive rotations will have to converge on Towns faster to prevent him from getting all the way to the basket.
Get a Gary Harris boost: Gary Harris did not play in last week’s matchup. He’s been critical to the Nuggets offense, and has had some good games against the Timberwolves in the past. In the last three games in which Harris has faced Minnesota, he’s averaged 20.3 points and 4.0 rebounds, and has shot 57.1 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from the 3-point line.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter