Phone: Chris Humphreys – USA TODAY Sports
Every Nuggets game leading up to Thursday nights game has been a “must-win,” but none have been as important and meaningful as this one.
Last week, the Nuggets playoff chances looked bleak after the team went 2-4 in their first six games of their seven game road trip. A win over the Thunder last Friday night put the Nuggets back in the playoff hunt though and helped put them back into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. The Nuggets have since won two straight and are looking for their fourth straight victory when the Timberwolves visit the Pepsi Center Thursday night.
With four games remaining in the regular season, the Nuggets currently hold the ninth spot in the conference and are a whole game behind the Pelicans for the eighth spot in the West. The Nuggets are certainly trying to keep pace with the Pelicans, but the team they’re really chasing is the Timberwolves. The Nuggets are just a game behind Minnesota, and have the potential to gain the tiebreaker with victories in their final two regular season games against the T-Wolves. The first of those games is Thursday night, and then the final game will come in the Nuggets regular season finale next Wednesday. If the Nuggets are able to take care of business in their final two contests against the T-Wolves, it’ll increase their playoff chances exponentially.
From a Timberwolves perspective, the hope was that all-star Jimmy Butler would make his return Thursday night from a knee injury, but that no longer seems to be the case.
Jimmy Butler is listed as doubtful for tomorrow nights game in Denver.
— John Meyer (@thedailywolf) April 4, 2018
With Butler being doubtful, it gives the Nuggets an increased chance to walk away Thursday night with a victory. Butler has destroyed the Nuggets in recent memory, and not having to worry about him for 48 minutes is nothing but good news for the Nuggets. With Butler out, most of the Nuggets attention will turn to Karl-Anthony Towns, who has been on an absolute tear as of late. Towns is averaging 21.2 points and 12.3 rebounds per game and has played in all 78 of the T-Wolves games this season. The matchup of Towns vs. Nikola Jokic will be the highlight of the night and might ultimately play the difference of which teams comes out on top at the end of the night.
Like Towns, Jokic has also been on fire as of late and is coming off back-to-back games of 30+ points. Jokic has really stepped up his game on both ends of the court and has played with heightened aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor. Jokic’s shooting numbers are now up to over 50 percent from the field and just under 40 percent from three at a clip of 39.8 percent. Jokic has climbed into the Nuggets leader in points per game at 18.3, while also leading the team in rebounds per game (10.5) and assists per game (6).
The Nuggets will still be without Gary Harris, who will miss his tenth straight game with a knee sprain. There’s no telling whether or not Harris will be back in any of the Nuggets final four games, but Harris’ absence has allowed one player in particular to really step up, and that would be Torrey Craig. What Craig has done in Harris’ absence has been nothing short of spectacular. Craig has been phenomenal on the defensive end of the court and has collected some timely rebounds in the last couple of games too provide the Nuggets some second chance point opportunities. With Harris being out, look for Craig to be a factor in Thursday nights game.
Stay tuned to Dig In Denver and find out if the Nuggets were able to pick up a victory in their most important game of the season.