By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy Friday, Wolves fans. The Wolves play twice this weekend. Tonight against Denver, followed by Sunday on the road vs Phoenix. It should provide an opportunity for the team to make up some lost ground from the 4-game losing streak they suffered a week ago. Minnesota (9-12) is currently 10th in the Western Conference and is looking to move up with a win tonight.
The Nuggets (8-14) have won 2 of their last 3 and are currently sitting 13th in the Western Conference. They're sort of in a position no team in the league wants to be in. They aren't quite good enough to make the playoffs, but aren't quite bad enough to be a top 5 lottery team. The result: a mid-late lottery pick without a playoff berth for a team that could really use another top 5 draft pick to pair along with last year's #7 overall pick Emmanuel Mudiay.
Anyway, here's what you need to know for tonights game.
What: Wolves @ Nuggets
Where: Pepsi Center. Denver, Colorado.
When: 8:00pm CST
Where to watch: Fox Sports North Plus
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO Radio
What to watch for:
Who closes? Both Denver and Minnesota have severely struggled closing out games down the stretch. Coach Mike Malone has chastised his team for playing 36-40 minutes a game, instead of 48. Regarding the Wolves, the effort is there, but they've struggled making winning plays in the clutch. Tonight, something's gotta give. One of these teams will have to close. Who will it be?
Ricky's shooting: Per a tweet of William Bohl, a writer/blogger for A Wolf Among Wolves, if you take out Ricky Rubio's big game against LAL on opening night, he's shooting 29.6% from the floor, 8.7% from 3 this season. Ouch. Sounds like someone needs Mike Penberthy back. But seriously, Mike, if you could return, that'd be great.
Defense: The Wolves are allowing their opponents to shoot 48.4% and score 108.8ppg over the past 5 games. To make it worse, the majority of the 5 opponents didn't feature high quality offensive units. Earlier this season, Smitchell had this team as a top 10 defense in the league. If the defense can return to early-season form, the wins may start to pile-up once again.
Points: Andrew Wiggins (21)
Rebounds: Karl-Anthony Towns (9.3)
Assists: Ricky Rubio (8.7)
Steals: Ricky Rubio (1.8)
Blocks: Karl-Anthony Towns (2.2)
Points: Danilo Gallinari (17.5)
Rebounds: Kenneth Faried (8.8)
Assists: Emmanuel Mudiay (6)
Steals: Will Barton (1.2)
Blocks: Kenneth Faried (1)
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
PG: Emmanuel Mudiay
SG: Randy Foye
SF: Danilo Gallinari
PF: Kenneth Faried
C: JJ Hickson
OUT: Nikola Pekovic (achilles)
OUT: Wilson Chandler (hip)
Questionable: Danilo Gallinari (left knee)
Questionable: Darrell Arthur (knee soreness)
Andre Miller is unavailable to play tonight due to personal reasons. With Tyus in the D-League, that leaves just Rubio and Lavine as only pg's for the night.
Per Jerry Zgoda: Kevin Martin had his sprained right wrist iced after shootaround, clearly was in some discomfort, but will give it a go tonight.
That's all I have for this one. Enjoy the game tonight. It would be awesome to see Towns duplicate his 28pt, 14rb performance against Denver which transpired earlier this season. He should have his way down low tonight because of the lack of quality interior defenders Denver possesses. To wrap things up; I'm predicting a 98-91 Wolves win tonight with Nemanja Bjelica going off for 20+ points and 10+ rebounds. Belly's back!
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!