NBA Basketball

Nuggets look to regroup vs. short-handed Wolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves are nearing extinction in the Western Conference playoff race, but there are smiles in their camp.

No, they're not excited about a possible high lottery pick. The smiles are of relief and joy because the knee injury All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns suffered Saturday night is not as serious as once feared.

Minnesota didn't have him in Sunday's win over New York and his status for Tuesday night's game at Denver has not been announced, but the diagnosis of right knee inflammation was a lot more positive than a possible torn ligament.

"It is a relief and especially any time a player is playing like Karl is, he's a big part of what we do," said Timberwolves interim coach Ryan Saunders. "Obviously we want to keep him on the court."

Minnesota was also without forward Andrew Wiggins against the Knicks due to a thigh contusion. If both are out against the Nuggets, it will make for an uphill battle against the No. 2 team in the Western Conference.

Denver's perch near the top of the conference has become more tenuous with the Houston Rockets winning eight in a row. The Nuggets have dropped four of their last five, including a loss at Golden State on Friday night.

Two of those four losses have come at home, the last against a New Orleans team playing without Anthony Davis. The Nuggets need to remember that if Towns and/or Wiggins don't play Tuesday.

The other issue for Denver is how the starters played against Golden State. The Warriors raced out to a 20-6 lead and were never seriously threatened despite the Nuggets' bench getting them back into the game.

Denver's starters were a combined minus-95 Friday night, which prompted coach Michael Malone to call them out while praising the play of the reserves.

"A care factor," Malone said after the game when asked what differentiated Denver's second unit. "They played like they wanted to play. They played like they wanted to come here and compete, and that was a marked difference from our starting group."

The Nuggets shouldn't have any trouble getting pumped up for a home game against Minnesota. The teams met on the last day of the 2017-18 season with a playoff spot up for grabs, and the Timberwolves won in overtime.

Minnesota is six games out of the last playoff spot now, but can spoil Denver's run to the postseason -- even if Towns and Wiggins are out. The Timberwolves still have plenty of talent, as Taj Gibson (25 points) and Jeff Teague (20 points, 10 assists) showed against the Knicks.

"We expect to do that because we have a good team. It may not show all the time, but we have guys capable of having big nights," Gibson said after Sunday's win. "It's part of being a professional basketball player. You just have to know your role and do whatever the team needs, and if given a night that you need to step up and play an even bigger role, just be prepared."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 11, 2019

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