Nuggets stand as next test for improving Wolves
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The Minnesota Timberwolves will try to build upon their best victory of the season when they host the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night in Minneapolis.
Minnesota, which has won three of its first four games, is coming off a 113-108 win on the road against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. D'Angelo Russell scored 29 points and dished six assists, and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 25 points on 9-for-13 shooting.
"That's an NBA championship opponent," Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. "I know they've got some injuries and whatnot, but they play hard and they don't beat themselves. We had to do a good job of executing our game plan."
Now, the challenge for Minnesota is to avoid a letdown performance following the emotional win.
The Nuggets come to town on short rest after a dominant 106-75 win at home against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night. Denver jumped to a 54-44 halftime lead and put the game away with a runaway third quarter, outscoring Dallas 33-12.
Nikola Jokic scored 11 points and pulled down 16 rebounds despite playing with a sore right knee. He injured the knee on Wednesday when he collided with Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert in the first half.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said it was important to be cautious when considering Jokic's workload. It remains to be seen whether his playing time will be limited in the second half of a back-to-back set.
"He's far too important for this team for us to risk him being out there if he's not feeling confident about it," said Malone, who limited Jokic's playing time to 25 minutes on Friday.
Will Barton also will try to stay hot for Denver after scoring 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting one night earlier. He added six assists to go along with five rebounds.
Meanwhile, Minnesota will continue to rely upon its top three players in Towns, Russell and second-year guard Anthony Edwards. All three are averaging at least 18 points per game this season, while no other player on the team is scoring in double digits.
Towns leads the Timberwolves with 28 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his first four contests. Towns also is averaging four assists, 2.5 blocks and 1.3 steals in his seventh NBA season.
"Karl's the best player on our team," Russell said. "When he's aggressive as heck to start the game, we feed off that. If he's a little passive to start the game, we feed off that as well. We kind of play off him.
"Right now, we're trying to figure that out, how we can still be assertive and still be there and not be invisible when we're feeding off him."
The Nuggets went 3-0 against the Timberwolves last season. Denver won 124-109 at home, 123-116 on the road and 114-103 at home for a clean sweep of the regular-season series. In the final win May 13, Jokic finished with 31 points on 14-for-21 shooting to go along with a team-high 14 rebounds.
--Field Level Media
Updated October 30, 2021