Good to Be Back: Nuggets-Timberwolves Preview

Think George Mikan had NOTHING to do with tonight’s game? Think again.

After four days off the Timberwolves return to action against the Denver Larks. Er, Rockets. Sorry, the Denver Nuggets. Excuse the confusion. The Nuggets actually do have an interesting history that involves a Minnesota basketball legend. See, former Minneapolis Lakers great George Mikan was commissioner of the ABA back in the 60’s and 70’s. When their Kansas City franchise could not get an arena that was suitable, they moved to Oklahoma City Mikan persuaded ownership to move to Denver, so they did. Except, they were the “Larks” (Nothing is quite as terrifying as a lark, is it?).

However, the ownership group that was responsible for, you know, financing the team had a lack of funds and nearly lost the franchise. Fortunately, a new owner stepped in and (thankfully) re-named the team the “Rockets”. It wouldn’t be until 1974 when the ABA began planning to merge with the NBA that they were forced to change their name to the “Nuggets”, after the team of the same name that played there from ’48-’50, because there was obviously a team named the Rockets in Houston already.

Fast forward to tonight when the Nuggets come to Minneapolis, where former ABA commissioner George Mikan forged his hall of fame career!

(You can’t tell me that tie-in isn’t more interesting than talking about how former Wolves players (Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos, and Anthony Randolph) and a former draft pick (Ty Lawson) play for the Nuggets, in some corny “Homecoming!” story line. Well, Anthony Randolph doesn’t really “play” for Denver; he’s played five more minutes of NBA ball this season than I have. George Karl must be like, “LOLANTHONYRANDOLPH? What do I do with him?”)

These Nuggets come in at 5-6, in last place in the Northwest. Here’s the gist of how their season-to-date has played out: lost three; won four; lost three; won one. If you believe in trends and patterns, the Wolves are going to be a part of their next hot streak. Or you say, “Hey, they’ve lost three of their last four.”

The Timberwolves recently broke a streak of their own, too. Yes, they snapped their four game injury streak against the Warriors on Friday and look to return Nikola Pekovic (Thank God Pek doesn’t bowl!) and JJ Barea tonight. For the Nuggets, Landry Fields is out, and Randolph is questionable. I mean, his status is questionable because of his injured ankle, not his basketball ability.

So far this season, the Nuggets have really only rebounded well on the offensive end, pulling down the board some 37% of the time. Facing a Timberwolves team that has been in the middle of the pack of the NBA’s best defensive rebounding teams, this could be an issue. The Timberwolves’ ability to be victorious tonight will be greatly improved if they can keep the Nuggets from getting high-percentage, second-chance looks.

The Timberwolves will also have to find a way to deal with Ty Lawson’s speed, and the height and athleticism of Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried. Sure, Lawson hasn’t shot well so far this season, but that won’t matter if the Timberwolves can’t find someone to stick in front of him. In the frontcourt, McGee is a legit 7’0 and Manimal is an athletic freak, but they each have enough basketball skill to make that something to keep an eye on. How the Timberwolves juggle Derrick Williams on Iguodala will interesting.  Do they switch Andrei Kirilenko on him on defense and trust Williams on Faried?

If the Wolves have one thing going for them, it’s that the Nuggets can’t shoot free throws. Well, neither can the Wolves, but the Nugs are 30th in the NBA and the Wolves 25th. What’s sad is that the difference between 25th place and 30th place is a whole 7.3% (.733% to .660%). It’s safe to say that if this game winds up being close, it could be decided at the line.

Starting Fives:

Ty Lawson – PG – Luke Ridnour

Andre Iguodala – SG – Malcolm Lee (Projected)

Danillo Gallinari – SF – Derrick Williams

Kenneth Faried – PF – Andrei Kirilenko

Kosta Koufos (Seriously?) – C – Nikola Pekovic


About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.

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