Nuggets, T-Wolves clash after comeback wins

Field Level Media

The Denver Nuggets' strong start to the season was predicted after what they accomplished last year, but the Minnesota Timberwolves have been a small surprise eight games into the year.

The teams will meet Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Both head into the game riding come-from-behind victories on Friday night. The Timberwolves came back in the final 29 seconds to send their game with Golden State into overtime, where they won by six.

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Denver's win was a little more dramatic and improbable, with the go-ahead points coming on a clutch shot by Nikola Jokic with 1.2 seconds left to beat Philadelphia.

It was a little redemption for Jokic, who has been criticized for his somewhat passive play over the past few games. He took over in the fourth quarter against the 76ers to help the Nuggets rally from 21 down in the final 11 minutes.

"That's the Nikola we need," teammate Will Barton said after the game.

"It's not about him just making shots, missing shots, or taking shots, it's about when he's emotionally invested into the game, he's a different player. You can see tonight. When he's that guy, when he's that competitive, only good things are going to happen for our team."

Like Denver, the Timberwolves have relied on a player to lead them, Andrew Wiggins, who had 40 points in the overtime win over the Warriors. Wiggins is averaging 24.6 points this season and 29 points over the past four games.

On top of being an offensive force, Wiggins has been an emotional leader for a Minnesota club that has won five of its first eight games.

"We've seen Wiggs building to what we imagine he could be and what we believe he could be," forward Robert Covington said after Friday's game. "He just has so many good positive people around him that are pushing him, that believe in him, and that's contagious."

Wiggins' heroics were needed for the depleted Timberwolves. He was running the point at times with guards Jeff Teague (illness) and Shabazz Napier (right shoulder strain) out for the second straight game. Minnesota likely will get one of the two points guards back for Sunday, so Jaylen Nowell was assigned to the Iowa Wolves of the G League.

Minnesota will have to worry about more than just Jokic. Point guard Jamal Murray is coming off his best game of the season (22 points, 11 assists) and Barton is playing arguably the best basketball on the Nuggets since he returned from a foot injury. He is averaging 15.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game .

But the key to stopping Denver remains being able to contain Jokic. While he hasn't put up the huge numbers from last season, he is averaging 16.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists -- the latter two marks being tops on the team.

He also has two triple-doubles and is averaging 1.3 steals per game. His perceived passiveness has not worried Denver coach Michael Malone, who was glad to see his star come through on Friday.

"I wasn't overly alarmed," Malone said Friday. "I'm talking to Nikola. I know who he is. I understand he's in a good place mentally."

--Field Level Media

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