The All-Star break couldn’t be coming at a better time for the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves, who have both been bit by the injury bug.
The Nuggets and Timberwolves try to snap their respective losing streaks Wednesday night before getting some much-needed time off.
Denver (24-26) has been outscored by an average of 27.7 points in opening a four-game trip with three straight defeats. It got especially ugly in Monday’s 119-80 loss to Indiana as leading scorer Ty Lawson (18.0 points per game) sat out due to a fractured left rib.
"We’re not healthy, our numbers are down," said coach Brian Shaw, whose team is also missing backup point guard Nate Robinson (sprained ACL). "We’re short-handed at certain positions, but with that being said, we still have to show some fight."
Randy Foye had 10 assists but scored just nine points while going 2 of 13 from the field. The Nuggets were held to 31.5 percent shooting, their worst mark in 10 seasons.
"I can take losing if we play hard and we get beat, but I don’t want our guys to display being a loser. There’s a difference between losing and being a loser," Shaw said. "When things go bad, I don’t want everybody to splinter off in different directions and jump off the ship."
Denver has dropped nine of 14, a stretch during which it’s allowed 112.1 points per game.
"Our defense has been a problem all year long," Shaw added, "and until we start getting mad and taking more pride in our individual matchups, it’s going to be a long, long year for us."
The Timberwolves (24-28) are also hoping to get back on track after dropping six of seven, including a season-worst four straight while surrendering an average of 107.0 points. Minnesota’s woes continued Monday in a 107-89 loss to Houston, dropping to 6-22 when giving up more than 100 points.
"We’ve just got to keep pushing," center Ronny Turiaf said. "That’s what basketball is all about. When you have tough stretches like that, it reveals character. Do you cave in? Or do you just try to keep your head above water, just keep pushing and keep working and try to get better? You know that at the end of the day, things have to turn around eventually."
Kevin Love scored 31 points after missing two of the previous three games due to neck and quad injuries. The Timberwolves continue to play without their second- and third-leading scorers in Kevin Martin (broken thumb) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle bursitis).
"It’s burning the candle at both ends basically, with there being less and less games and we just can’t continue to lose," said Love, averaging 31.4 points and 14.7 rebounds over his last seven games. "Hopefully we’ll win this game on Wednesday and we’ll go into the break, get a few days rest and guys will continue to get healthy, get a little break with their mind and body."
Minnesota has dropped three straight and 23 of 27 against Denver, including two defeats in November. The Timberwolves sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, one game behind their Northwest Division rival.
"When we’re below or above .500, we weren’t looking at the record. We just want to play and do our thing and play as a team and improve," Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio said. "Next opponent is Denver. It’s a team that’s right above us and we just want to play good and win that game."
Minnesota coach Rick Adelman is expected to return after missing Monday’s game due to personal reasons.