With one game left before the All-Star break, the Denver Nuggets are trying to keep their momentum going.
It’ll be hard to top what they did Monday in a near-dominant performance against the NBA’s top team.
The Nuggets tied an NBA record with 24 made 3-pointers and blew out Golden State, 132-110. It was a performance made even more impressive because they were missing six players, including three starters.
Juancho Hernangomez, a 21-year-old rookie out of Spain, did the most damage with six 3-pointers and a career-high 27 points. Starting in place of the injured Danilo Gallinari, Hernangomez had the game of his life.
He and the rest of the Nuggets (25-30) will try to duplicate that performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves (21-35) in Denver on Wednesday night.
Denver will get reinforcements. Mason Plumlee, acquired for Jusuf Nurkic on Sunday, will play to add depth to the frontcourt and Wilson Chandler could return, too. He missed Monday due to illness.
Darrell Arthur, arguably the team’s best low-post defender, may also play after resting his sore knees against the Warriors.
Plumlee is a restricted free agent this summer, so he might turn out to be a 27-game rental, but Denver general manager Tim Connelly said he traded for the 6-foot-11 center/forward for beyond this season, words that Plumlee appreciated.
“It’s great to be wanted, more so than money or shots,” he told reporters Wednesday. “You want to be valued and you want to be part of something special.”
The Nuggets face a Timberwolves team coming off a 116-108 home loss to defending champion Cleveland on Tuesday night. The game was played the same day that Zach LaVine had surgery on his left knee to repair a torn ACL that happened at Detroit on Feb. 3.
LaVine, the team’s third-leading scorer, is done for the season. Minnesota is 2-4 without him and has fallen four games behind Denver for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
“He’s doing well,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “He’s in a good place. He’s really a tough guy mentally. I think he has a great understanding how he wants to work and approach this. I think there’s a lot for him to gain.”
Wednesday’s game is the fourth and final one between the Northwest Division opponents. Denver won the first two before the Timberwolves rallied to win in Minnesota on Jan. 22.
Minnesota couldn’t do the same against the Cavaliers despite 41 points from Andrew Wiggins and 16 assists from Ricky Rubio. The Timberwolves trailed by 14 midway through the third quarter, rallied to tie it heading into the fourth but couldn’t overtake Cleveland.
Confidence won’t be a problem for Denver, which survived a brutal stretch that included consecutive games against the two NBA finalists from the past two seasons. The Nuggets played the Cavaliers tough in Cleveland before faltering in the third quarter — in the second of back-to-back games — before routing Golden State on Monday.
Denver will likely be without Gallinari (left groin strain) for an eighth straight game, Emmanuel Mudiay (back) for his 10th game in the last 13 and Kenneth Faried (right ankle sprain) for a fourth game.
The Nuggets proved Monday they can win without their top players.
“No Gallo, no Faried, no Chandler, no D.A., no Plumlee, no Mudiay and every guy that went into (Monday’s) game contributed to the win,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
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