Nuggets-Timberwolves Preview

BY foxsports • January 5, 2016

The Minnesota Timberwolves are taking a new approach in an effort to solve their recent problems. The Denver Nuggets hope a little rest can help cure theirs.

Both will be aiming to halt lengthy losing streaks when the Northwest Division's bottom two teams meet for the final time this season Wednesday night.

Each has seen encouraging starts go by the wayside, with Minnesota having lost 15 of 19 and Denver 18 of 24. The Nuggets (12-23) have dropped six straight and nine of 10, while the Timberwolves (12-23) suffered a third straight loss with Monday's 109-99 defeat at 4-33 Philadelphia.

That result prompted coach Sam Mitchell to forgo Tuesday's practice, with the team instead spending approximately 90 minutes discussing ways in which it can improve.

''It's probably the best practice of the year, for us,'' rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns said. ''Especially more like a therapeutic session, allowing us even more to come together as a team and as a family.''

The impromptu meeting came with the Timberwolves mired in a 1-7 stretch, with six of the losses by double figures. They've been held under 100 points in all eight games.

Defense was a bigger problem in the latest loss after the 76ers, last in the NBA in scoring, shot a season-high 55.2 percent.

''I think we've touched the bottom now,'' guard Ricky Rubio said. ''So we've got to find it somehow. Maybe because we're young and the rookie wall is on our minds or whatever. I don't want to say any excuses. It's us being aggressive going out there and wanting to win.''

Denver appeared on its way to ending its skid before wilting down the stretch of Sunday's 112-106 home loss to Portland. Coming off a tough overtime loss in Golden State the previous night, the Nuggets were outscored 38-26 over the final 13:31.

"We expended so much energy (Saturday) night in an overtime game, then you fly back and get in at 3:30 a.m.," coach Mike Malone said. "We were gassed. Guys that are usually energy players for us came out flat as a pancake."

The Nuggets, 5-5 when playing on two or more days of rest, did receive 29 points from Danilo Gallinari in his second game back after missing six straight due to an ankle sprain. Kenneth Faried added 13 and nine rebounds one night after being hospitalized from an elbow to the back of his neck against Golden State.

Emmanuel Mudiay is expected to return for Denver on Wednesday. The rookie point guard has missed 12 straight with a sprained right ankle.

Minnesota could have a key player back as well, as Mitchell said Tuesday that Nikola Pekovic is 50-50 to make his season debut. The bruising center, sidelined by offseason ankle and Achilles surgeries, has been practicing in full since Sunday.

"Man, we could use that size. We need that bulk," Mitchell said.

Pekovic's potential presence could help sway the series back to Minnesota's favor. After posting a 95-78 win in Denver on Oct. 30 behind Towns' 28 points and 14 rebounds, the Timberwolves have been outrebounded 89-74 in losing the last two meetings.

The Nuggets, 0-12 when outrebounded, edged Minnesota 111-108 in overtime Dec. 11 in Denver and got 19 points and 10 boards from Faried in a 112-100 victory in Minneapolis four days later.

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