Another must win game for the Wolves also happens to be the toughest game on the schedule over the next 1 1/2 weeks.
Playing in Denver is never easy, and its the final game of a long, drawn-out road trip for Minnesota. They need to avoid looking ahead to what should be a relatively homestand and handle a Nuggets team that’s far more depleted than the edition that gave the Wolves fits earlier in the season.
Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson are out, and Danilo Gallinari has officially been ruled out for the season. The Nuggets are the closest team behind the Wolves in the conference standings, but at 4 games back and 9 1/2 games out of the playoffs, their season is effectively over. Rookie head coach Bryan Shaw has had a rough go of it this year, and his squad has lost five games in a row and ten of their last eleven, with their only win coming against the hapless Milwaukee Bucks.
The last time these two teams matched up was right before the All-Star Break at Target Center, and the Wolves ran roughshod over Denver, ultimately winning by a score of 117-90. Kevin Love dropped 32-11-8, and Corey Brewer and Ricky Rubio wreaked havoc on the Nuggets in the passing lanes and the open court, combing for 12 steals. Brewer also added 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting, and Rubio tallied 11 points and 12 assists in addition to his 7 steals.
Nobody had a good game for the Nuggets, as they shot just 39.3% from the floor, and J.J. Hickson leading the team with 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Wolves were without Pekovic and Martin for the tilt back on February 12, but Ronny Turiaf pulled down 11 rebounds and swatted 4 shots in a starting role.
The Wolves should be able to run at will in Denver tonight, but they’ll need to hope that the altitude doesn’t catch up with them too quickly. Minnesota can finally say that they have a deeper and more effective bench than a Denver Nuggets team, as the Wolves are largely recovered from injuries and the Nuggets have caught the bug. They’ll need that depth tonight on the road and at altitude, but this is a game that the Wolves should be able to pull out.
Dallas lost to San Antonio last night and Phoenix pulled out a touch-and-go affair against Atlanta, so the Wolves now sit 5 1/2 games back of both Dallas in the 8-spot and Phoenix in the 7-spot. Golden State lost, too, and they only have a 1/2 game lead on the sixth seed. So hey, who knows. If the Wolves stay hot, 6th place in the conference isn’t really any further out of reach than the eighth seed.
Tonight’s game tips at 8:00 C.T. Recap to follow.