Nuggets-Timberwolves Preview


The Denver Nuggets are cruising into the playoffs, and capping the regular season against the woeful Minnesota Timberwolves may just keep it that way.

Coach George Karl is also planning to take advantage of the seemingly lopsided matchup.

Karl is looking to limit playing time for key contributors as the Nuggets try to continue their dominance of the Timberwolves on Thursday night.

Denver (37-28) has won three straight and 10 of 14 to match a franchise record with its ninth straight trip to the postseason.

"You do this in the month of April and a lot of things and a lot of pressure and a lot of stress have been on you, I think that it shows that our guys have a pretty big heart and have some good character," Karl said.

"Everybody feels that we're playing our best basketball right now," he added.

The Nuggets' playoff opponent is still undecided, with either the Los Angeles Lakers or Oklahoma City as potential foes. A win over Minnesota (26-39) would secure the sixth seed and a series with the Lakers. A loss combined with Dallas beating Atlanta would mean the Nuggets are No. 7, setting up a playoff rematch with the Thunder, who eliminated them in five games in the opening round last year.

"We're going to go after (Thursday's) game," Karl said. "I'm not saying we want the Lakers over Oklahoma City. We just want to be playing as good of basketball as we've been playing.

"We're not going to play anybody big minutes (Thursday) but we're going to go in and try to win that game."

The Nuggets have done plenty of that against the Timberwolves, winning 18 of the last 20 matchups. They took the most recent 113-107 on April 11, but fell 117-100 in the latest visit to the Target Center on March 25.

Denver returns to Minneapolis coming off Wednesday's impressive 106-101 win at Oklahoma City.

Now, the Nuggets will try to capitalize on a Minnesota club that's dropped 12 of 13 with a depleted roster. The Timberwolves are without All-Star forward-center Kevin Love (concussion) and guards Ricky Rubio (knee) and Luke Ridnour (ankle).

Ty Lawson is averaging 22.7 points while hitting 56.5 percent from the field over the last six games - five wins - after scoring 25 versus the Thunder. He led Denver with 24 points and eight assists against the Timberwolves earlier this month.

Arron Afflalo scored 21 in that meeting, and is averaging 21.0 over his last three.

The Timberwolves are ending a rough season that has included losing 12 of the last 13 while surrendering an average of 103.3 points. They lost 93-88 to Golden State on Sunday and guard J.J. Barea ripped his teammates for not caring.

"We've got problems here," said Barea, who had 14 points and 12 assists while making 5 of 18 shots from the floor against the Warriors. "We've got a lot of guys that don't care. ... We're just going to keep getting Ls until we get players here that care, that care about winning, care about the team and care about the fans."

Michael Beasley, who made 3 of 11 from the field for eight points with nine rebounds Sunday, took exception to Barea's comments.

"Until you point those guys out one by one, it doesn't really matter," said Beasley, whose average of 11.5 points is a major drop from his career-high 19.2 from last season - his first with Minnesota.

Barea is averaging 15.6 points and 9.7 assists in the past 10 games, including 12 points and a career-high 15 assists against the Nuggets this month.