Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets, 3/9/13

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver NuggetsSetting the stage:

The Timberwolves travel to Denver on Saturday night to take on a division rival in a match-up that pits us against another very hot team.  Denver comes into Saturday night’s game riding a seven game winning streak, which has moved them up into the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff picture.  Denver has moved to 41-22 on the season.

Meanwhile, the Wolves are coming off of a two night rest after beating the Wizards on Wednesday night at the Target Center.  While the team had a few days off, they have not gotten much healthier, as both Pekovic and Kirilenko are expected to remain on the sidelines for Saturday’s game.  The team practiced on Friday and news coming out of the session was that Kevin Love was in attendance and taking jump shots.  Please let his return happen soon!  (Thanks @Alex_Cono for a great use of Vine!)

Without Love and a number of others, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams remain in the spotlight for the club.  Both have been performing more than admirably over the past few weeks.  While it hasn’t led to many wins, at least it is something for Pups fans to keep an eye on.

Minnesota has played Denver tough this year and has accounted for one of the Nuggets’ rare losses on its home floor (1/3 – 101-97).  The teams also split a pair of games in Minnesota earlier in the season (11/21 & 12/12).  You may recall that it was in the last game against the Nuggets on 1/3 where Kevin Love reinjured his hand and hasn’t been seen since on the court.  The respective seasons of both teams have certainly tailed in different directions since that moment.

Player to watch:

Kenneth Faried – The “Manimal” turned some heads with his performances during All-Star Weekend.  Faried – the 22nd pick of the 2011 draft – has steadily improved his game and truly is a “rising star” in the NBA.  He is averaging 12 ppg and 9.6 rpg for the Nuggets this season in just under 30 mpg.  With all of the injuries to the Wolves front line, it will be important for Derrick Williams to stay out of foul trouble and box Faried out of the paint on both ends of the floor.

Match-up to watch:

Greg Stiemsma vs. JaVale McGee.  What?!  I’m tired of comparing Rubio and (opponent PG) in the preview.  McGee continues to baffle announcers, fans, writers, and probably his teammates and coaching staff.  He is getting less than 20 mpg this season averaging 9.6 ppg and 4.7 rpg.  Should I point out the 20.9 PER and scream for more minutes or just watch this video … and scream for more minutes?

The match-up against Stiemsma should be interesting to say the least.  There is at least a 25% chance these two get tangled up and a double technical foul called, right?  Stiemsma’s play over the past few weeks has not been very strong.  He continues to pick up too many quick fouls and has to check out of games.

Predictions:

The Nuggets are coming off of a big win against the Clippers Thursday night.  With the day off in between, I don’t expect the Wolves to catch them napping.

Final score prediction: Timberwolves 87, Nuggets 102

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Andre Iguodala
  2. Kenneth Faried
  3. Danilo Gallinari

Let’s go Wolves!

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets

Photo Credit: Carlos Gonzalez, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Photo Credit: Carlos Gonzalez, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Setting the stage:
For the third time already this season, the Wolves face the Nuggets on Thursday night in Denver. This will be the second game of a back to back and the Wolves will once again be without Ricky Rubio. The thin air of Denver for a team that barely has enough healthy bodies to fill a rotation. Not to mention, the Wolves have had very few back to back experiences thus far in the season. This may not end well.

The Nuggets beat the Wolves at Target Center on 11/21, 101-94. The Wolves returned the favor on 12/12/12 (sorry, couldn’t resist), beating the Nuggets 108-105. Minnesota is coming off a bad loss Wednesday night in Utah where they looked lifeless, being blown out 106-84. Conversely, Denver is coming off of a win Tuesday night against the hottest team in the NBA, the Clippers.

The Nuggets are 18-15 on the year, good for second place in the Northwest division and seventh in the Western Conference. They remain one of the strongest offensive teams in the league, averaging 101.6 ppg (8th in the league) and 23.1 apg (5th). The Nuggets lead the league in rebounding at 46.3 per game, a slight advantage over the Lakers and Wolves.

As mentioned in Wednesday’s preview for the Jazz game, tonight is another important game for the Wolves against a division and conference opponent with similar playoff aspirations.

Player to watch:
Kevin Love – It is no secret that Love is struggling mightily from the field this season. Broken hand or not, he is letting these struggles negatively affect other elements of his game. His jump shot looks broken. As suggested during last night’s game in Utah, it might be worth creating a little bit of a wake-up call to Love and the rest of the locker room to challenge him to work more in the paint, particularly when Pekovic is out of the game. The Wolves need Love to get going … quickly.

Match-up to watch:
Andrei Kirilenko vs. Danilo Gallinari. Much like this Nuggets team in its totality, Danilo’s night in and night out performance continues to be a head scratcher for me. The volatility in how he performs from game to game is pretty amazing. In four games in five nights during Christmas week, Danilo put up 7, 19, 39, and 7 points respectively. You could understand the latter 7 point game as fatigue, but he has thrown up eight games in single digits thus far this season.

It will be interesting to see how Kirilenko responds to not only playing on back to back nights, but the 30+ minutes he put in on his emotional return to Utah. He has had his problems stopping Danilo in the two earlier meetings this season.

Predictions:
No Rubio, the end of a back to back, and the Denver air = Twolves loss.
Final score prediction: Twolves 102, Nuggets 108

Three stars of the game predictions:
1. Ty Lawson
2. Andre Iguodala
3. Nikola Pekovic

Hope the Pups can prove me wrong. Let’s go Wolves!