The Denver Nuggets are on the verge of securing their longest single-season home win streak in 24 years, and a matchup with a last-place opponent would appear to provide just the opportunity to accomplish that feat.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, though, are one of the few teams to win in Denver this season and will seek another victory there Saturday night while trying to record their first win streak in three months.
Denver (41-22) hasn't won 13 straight at home in one season since a 19-game run Jan. 28-April 20, 1989. It moved a step closer with its seventh consecutive overall victory Thursday, 107-92 over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Ty Lawson, averaging 23.6 points in his last 12 games, led seven players in double figures with 21, and Danilo Gallinari had 20 as the Nuggets improved to 27-3 on their own floor.
The Nuggets' surge has put them within striking distance of fourth place in the Western Conference and home-court advantage for the opening round of the playoffs. Coach George Karl, though, wants his team to keep a simple focus.
"We've got to stay focused on (19) games of pretty serious playoff intensity and not get hung up on a loss or a winning streak," Karl told the team's official website. "We need to get hung up on getting better. Wherever we fall, if it's third, fourth, fifth, or sixth ... just know we fought the 82-game marathon, ran that as hard as we could and got better as it went on."
Karl would first probably like to see an improved performance from his team when facing Minnesota. After losing 101-94 at home Nov. 21, The Timberwolves have won the past two meetings, including 101-97 in Denver on Jan. 3. Before that win, the Timberwolves had dropped five in a row and 14 of 18 at the Pepsi Center.
J.J. Barea scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter after Kevin Love was forced to the bench with an injury. That turned out to be another fracture in his right hand, which has since kept Love off the court.
With its star forward missing, Minnesota (21-37) has dropped 12 of 13 on the road and 23 of 29 overall, but it snapped a six-game skid with an 87-82 home win over Washington on Wednesday. Barea had 10 of his 12 points in the final period, and Ricky Rubio had 15 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and a career high-tying six steals.
"They have just been slapped around so much," coach Rick Adelman said. "I think you get to a point where you keep saying the same things, you keep talking about the same things. But you need to get a win."
Minnesota hasn't won back-to-back games since taking a season-high four straight Dec. 7-15, which included a 108-105 home victory over Denver.
The Timberwolves likely won't have Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain) and Andrei Kirilenko (strained left calf) available for this game. Pekovic had a team-best 22 points and 11 rebounds in December's meeting and Kirilenko scored 18.
Derrick Williams is averaging 20.5 points in his last six games, but he's scored a combined 18 on 6-of-18 shooting in his last three matchups with the Nuggets after tying his career high with 27 points April 11 in Denver.
Gallinari is averaging a team-best 18.3 points on 54.3 percent shooting against Minnesota this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved