Game 50 Preview: Denver Nuggets vs Minnesota Timberwolves

Denver Nuggets (26-22) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (23-26)

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Last game: Minnesota: L, 149-140 in 2 OT vs Oklahoma City, Denver: L, 121-102 vs Utah

Despite Kevin Loves outburst, the Wolves fell short against the Thunder.

Despite Kevin Love's outburst, the Wolves fell short against the Thunder.

The Timberwolves lost one of the most exciting games of the NBA season on Friday to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Love led all scorers with a mind-blowing 51 points, and JJ Barea recorded his first career triple-double, but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 85 points, with Durant hitting several clutch threes. Minnesota was without Nikola Pekovic and their second-highest scorer Michael Beasley.

The Nuggets gave up 121 points to the Utah Jazz on Friday. Seven different Jazz players scored in double figures, as Al Jefferson lead the way with 23. The Nuggets fell to 8th in the West, half a game ahead of the Rockets, two games ahead of the Suns, and 3.5 games ahead of the Timberwolves.

The Key Questions

#1. Will the Timberwolves respond well to their first home game since March 10?

The past 15 days have been rough on Minnesota. After Rubio went down for the season, the Wolves began a seven game road trip. Now they sit 3.5 games out of the playoff race, after going 2-9 in their last 11 games.

All is not lost. The upcoming schedule includes several against teams who will be vying for the last playoff spots. But the winning needs to begin this afternoon.

#2. Will Minnesota be mentally drained after Friday?

For me at least, Friday’s game was one of those losses I came away from like Will Ferrell in Anchorman. “You…you lost, but you stuck with the best team in the Western Conference without three of your four best players? Kevin Love dropped 51? You ate the whole block of cheese? I’m not even mad, I’m just impressed!”

I said in my last preview that I thought a win would go a long way towards boosting morale, but oddly, I think last night’s loss could do the same thing. The Timberwolves somehow stuck with the Thunder on pure grit without Pek and Beas (and Rubio, of course). Well, grit and Kevin Love. The man is legitimately insane right now.

#3. How will Aaron Afflalo’s absence affect the game?

Afflalo was suspended one game (justifiably) for throwing an elbow into Gordon Hayward’s chin. This is a break for the Wolves: Afflalo’s consistency would hurt Minnesota from the shooting guard position.

The Key Matchups

The Nuggets’ matchups are hard to predict because their rotations change so frequently. Against Utah, no player played 30 minutes. But I’ll give it a shot…

Pek is still listed as questionable for today’s game, but if he becomes available, he will be matched up with a combination of Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee. Neither player has the strength to deal with Pek in the post.

Love will see a lot of Kenneth Faried and Al Harrington. Neither player should be able to shut Love down, but Faried’s energy and athleticism may cause problems. If Love gets caught up complaining about foul calls on one end, Faried may punish him on the other. In other news, Kenneth Faried is freaking awesome.

Two days after getting torched by Russell Westbrook, Luke Ridnour has to try to contain Ty Lawson. Lawson isn’t as big and strong as Westbrook, but he is just as speedy. Ridnour will need to focus to stay in front of him.

The Outlook

I’m oddly optimistic about this game. A solid home crowd would really help the Wolves in their homecoming. And man, Minnesota could sure use a win.

Game starts at 2:30 on Fox Sports North

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