Denver Nuggets vs Minnesota Timberwolves: Three Steps to Victory

Oct 12, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) looks to pass against the Denver Nuggets in the first half at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are set to play their fourth game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in what we will call “The Battle for the Future.”

After two consecutive heartbreaking losses the Denver Nuggets travel to Minnesota to take on Karl Towns and the up-and-coming Timberwolves in game four of the new NBA season.

Minnesota have a roster stacked with top young talent, and the Nuggets will have their work cut out for them if they are to go into Minnesota and get a W against their divisional rivals.

With that said, this will be Denver’s second game against a division rival, and there will be none more important than this one. In a couple years, this matchup could highlight the NBA’s night. The star of Minnesota (Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, and Andrew Wiggins) will need to outshine the raw young talent of Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.

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The Denver bench will also come hugely into play just like it has in all three of the first games. The X-factor in this game will be Wilson Chandler and his ability to lead the scoring for the second unit. It will also be noted that Darrell Arthur will be making his return to the lineup. This will be huge for spacing the court for young star Emmanuel Mudiay.

Here are three keys the Nuggets need to execute in order to come away with the win.

Oct 31, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) gestures to fans during a time out in a 105-102 loss to Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Play to win, not to hold on

The Nuggets have found themselves on a two game slide after starting the season out with a win in New Orleans. In both losses, Denver were in the game right up to the last possession yet were unable to finish off games late.

Against Portland in Denver, the Nuggets were in possession of the ball and up eight with 50 seconds remaining. The rest, we know, as the Nuggets squandered the buffer that had and eventually lost in overtime.

Denver also held the lead in the fourth quarter of the game in Toronto before allowing the Raptors to over run them in the last few minutes.

If the Nuggets want to make the playoffs, they need to learn how to execute late and close out games.

In the early part of the season, Denver are playing at one of the highest paces in the entire league. In the previous two losses however, the pace has slowed down late as the Nuggets try to close out games. The Nuggets look tentative and unsure in the closing minutes. Denver must keep attacking. It almost appears they are trying to hold onto leads, rather than increase them.

While many believe teams need a go to guy late, like Damien Lillard in Portland, the Nuggets benefit throughout games by sharing the scoring load. Nothing should change when closing out contests. The Nuggets should continue to run their sets, expose match-ups and play freely in the final few minutes.

Nov 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) drives to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Troy Williams (10) and forward JaMychal Green (0) in the first half at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Make Karl-Anthony Towns beat you

Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast. Coming off an unbelievable rookie campaign that saw him named to the All-Rookie first team and take home ROY honors, Towns is expected to take another giant leap this season and catapult himself into the upper echelon of players.

Many teams have, and will continue too, struggle to contain Towns when they play the Wolves. He is so versatile, athletic and intelligent that no matter what teams throw his way, he is able to adjust and still dominate a game. That is why, a major key to beating the Wolves is to contain the players around Towns.

In the Nuggets first game of the season, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis erupted for 50 points, 16 rebounds, 7 steals and 4 blocks. Despite Davis’ huge outing, Denver came away with the W because the rest of the Pelicans squad had relatively quiet games.

Against Minnesota, the Nuggets must contain the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Gorgui Dieng if they want to win. Both Wiggins and LaVine can explode for have massive games on the offensive end and when they do, it goes a long way towards a Minnesota victory.

Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Will Barton must contain these two players on the perimeter and not allow them to catch fire early. Force Karl Towns to beat you on his own, like the Nuggets did with Davis and the Pelicans.

Oct 31, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) looks to make a pass against Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) in the second half at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Get Jamal Murray going

Despite Jamal Murray’s early struggles, the Nuggets have been able to remain competitive in all three contests this season. Getting the rookie out of Kentucky going early will greatly increase Denver’s chances of beating the Wolves.

Murray is yet to make a field goal in his NBA career, however he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to do so. The rookie has attempted just 8 shots in 36 minutes of playing time across the first three games.

When Murray enters the game, the Nuggets should run some plays designed for Murray to get a clean shot off and get him involved in the offense early. When he is on the floor, Murray has been relegated to the corner three most of the time in the early part of the season.

Running some plays for him early will give him confidence and may lead to him being more willing to break defenders down and get to the rim like he did in Kentucky.

An additional punch off the bench may give the Nuggets what they need to get over the line against the Timberwolves.

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