Nuggets, Timberwolves looking for bounce-back wins

03 Jan 2021 / 08:23 H.

    Five games into this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets will meet Sunday night in Minneapolis already trying to turn things around.

    The Timberwolves have lost three in a row after starting the year with two victories, while the Nuggets, who reached the Western Conference finals last season, have lost four of five to begin this campaign.

    Neither team is where it wants to be, and that requires a gut check before the postseason gets out of reach.

    "We are only five games in. We are not playing bad, it's just little details," Denver's Jamal Murray said after a 106-103 loss to Phoenix on Friday night. "A couple of closeouts here, just putting a hand up there and a couple of boxouts here and that's the ballgame. I think we have to do work early."

    The Nuggets have gotten off to good starts to games, but the second unit has either let a lead slip or a deficit expand when the starters sit. In Friday's loss the bench was a combined minus-38, which was a slight improvement from a combined minus-48 at Sacramento on Tuesday night.

    Not even the debut of JaMychal Green could help Friday.

    "We still have some chemistry that we have to gain as a team. We have to gel," Green said Friday night. "It was a quick offseason. It was a quick training camp. We really haven't had much time to play together. We really are learning along the way. (We're)1-4 right now, but it's nothing to panic about. We'll turn it around."

    Denver will again be without third-leading scorer Michael Porter Jr., who is out due to the NBA's health and safety protocols regarding contact tracing.

    Minnesota will also be without a valuable piece for the Sunday afternoon. Karl-Anthony Towns will miss his fourth straight game with a dislocated left wrist, while Josh Okogie is likely to sit for the third straight game with a hamstring injury.

    The Timberwolves have felt their absences with three losses by an average of 26.7 points. The latest was a 130-109 defeat against Washington on Friday night.

    "It's on all of us. We need more offensively, more defensively," Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. "That's not just from an individual player, that's from a collective group. With that, individually, we need more from guys to get out of this rut."

    With Towns out for the foreseeable future the Timberwolves used 6-foot-9 Naz Reid at center. They also employed a smaller starting five, including four guards.

    "As a team, when you're losing or not doing things right, you try to do extra on your own," said Malik Beasley, who had 21 points in the loss. "And I feel like we're doing that, rather than coming together as a team. But once we do that, once we figure things out -- including myself -- we'll play like a great team."

    One of the bright spots for Minnesota has been this year's No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards. He is averaging 15.4 points in the first five games and has scored in double figures every game.

    --Field Level Media

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