December 27, 2017, 1:22 pm
Just one week ago the Timberwolves beat the Denver Nuggets 112-104 on the road in an impressive performance. Denver had only two losses at home going into that game and it’s a notoriously tough place to play given the altitude adjustment road teams face.
This time these teams will face off in Minneapolis and the Nuggets are only 7-12 on the road, although they just beat the Warriors and the Blazers on back-to-back nights on the road on top of another home victory so they are in a little grove at the moment.
The Nuggets are at near full strength now after missing many key players in the last matchup. Paul Millsap is still out, but they welcomed back Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay recently and Jokic is basically back to regular work.
The most impressive aspect of the Nuggets during their three-game win streak has been their defense. They’ve held the Blazers, Warriors and Jazz all under 85 points, averaging 83 per game and collectively shooting 37.6 percent from the field and 22.6 percent from 3-point range.
Jamal Murray and Gary Harris in particular were excellent in limiting each team’s back-court to terrible shooting nights.
The Nuggets deserve credit for three excellent performances in a row, but they were pretty bad defensively in the 30 games that preceded them so there is reason for some skepticism. Also the Blazers and Warriors are beat up (missing Lillard and Curry respectively, among others) and the Jazz aren’t an offensive juggernaut.
Regardless the Wolves will be facing an energized squad that will be looking for some revenge from last week’s home loss.
Meanwhile the Wolves are in excellent shape both health wise and in the standings. Having won four in a row, and five-of-six, the Wolves are feeling confident and soaring high. Admittedly many of those wins have come versus lower quality opponents but they are taking care of business.
It’s important the Wolves continue to win these types of games though because the schedule starts to get tougher headed into January. So far they’ve had a fairly middle of the road schedule in terms of toughness, but it will get harder soon.
– Jimmy Butler vs. Gary Harris
– Taj Gibson vs. Nikola Jokic
After missing their last matchup, Harris will be active this time and look to cause problems on both ends. Offensively he’s a tough matchup because he’s an above average shooter at his position at nearly every range on the court. He’s not the most athletic or fastest guy on the court but he makes up for it by being a knock-down scorer.
Defensively he’s solid but can be beat because of his footspeed. Over his last three games though he’s shut down C.J. McCollum, Klay Thompson and Donovan Mitchell, so he’s unfazed by the big matchups. Once again he’ll be tasked with facing the team’s best perimeter player.
In the prior meeting Jokic and Gibson faced off, but it was Gorgui Dieng who got the best of Jokic. Thibs still ran Gibson out there more than Dieng, but he did cut down Gibson’s minutes a little bit. He wasn’t great when going up against Jokic in their first matchup so it will be interesting to see if he makes any kind of adjustments.
More likely Dieng is just better suited to guard him and will once again see a little bit more time versus the Joker.
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Jamal Murray – PG
Gary Harris – SG
Wilson Chandler – SF
Nikola Jokic – PF
Mason Plumlee – C
Paul Millsap (wrist) – OUT
Where to Watch:
8:00 ET/7:00 CT on Fox Sports North