By: Jonah Sprinkel
The Timberwolves are back on the road. They closed out their five game home stand with a come from behind win over the Portland Trailblazers. However, the team went 3-2 over those five games. With such an easy schedule (Dallas, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Phoenix and Portland) it’s hard to be enthusiastic about this team once their schedule toughens up.
Defense continues to be an issue and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. The Wolves hold the 5th worst defense in the league with a 110.82 rating. Only New Orleans, Atlanta, Sacramento, and Phoenix rank lower.
If the Wolves want to maintain their hold on the four seed in the West the defense must improve. End of story.
What: Wolves @ Nuggets
Where: Pepsi Center. Denver, Colorado
When: 8:00 PM CT
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for
Denver’s offense: Despite the loss of Paul Millsap, the Nuggets have maintained a 110.27 offensive rating, good for 8th best in the NBA. They also rank in the top 10 for assists per game and three point attempts per game. In the last 10 games, the Nuggets have put up an average of 109.6 points per game. Everyone and their mother knows the Wolves struggle to get stops. In other words, this game could get ugly fast.
Nikola Jokic: This offense is being led by utility tool big man Nikola Jokic. He is doing something no NBA player has done since 1992; average 15 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists on an effective field goal percentage greater than 56.5 percent. Only six players in league history have averaged those numbers or better; Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jeff Ruland, Charles Barkley, Brad Daughtery and Nikola Jokic. Not too shabby.
Jimmy Butler: Butler has been a rock for this team since deciding to assert himself as a scorer. He’s closed games but also given everything he has on both ends of the floor as evidenced by his willingness to play through back pain in the loss to Phoenix. In the last 10 games Butler is averaging 25.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, five assists, 2 steals while shooting 50% from the floor. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus lists Butler with the sixth highest RPM in the league only trailing Chris Paul, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, LeBron James and James Harden.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Denver: PG Jamal Murray, SG Gary Harris, SF Wilson Chandler, PF Nikola Jokic, C Mason Plumlee
The Wolves struggle to control Denver’s offense and lose 114-110.