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Red-hot Nuggets out for revenge vs. Wolves

Jan 17, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reacts in the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets haven’t lost much over the past month, but one of those setbacks was in Minnesota on Jan. 2. It was one of just three losses Denver has suffered since Dec. 6, 2022, and the Nuggets get a chance for some payback when it hosts the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Denver will be playing back-to-back home games after beating Portland 122-113 on Tuesday night without head coach Michael Malone. Malone was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocol Tuesday morning.

Nuggets assistant David Adelman served as the acting head coach and will likely stay in that role Wednesday night.

“The quicker he gets back it’s good for us,” Adelman said of Malone after Tuesday’s win.

The Timberwolves’ 124-111 win over Denver kick-started a turnaround for them. That win started a run of six wins in seven games for Minnesota. That run stopped with a 126-125 loss at home to Utah on Monday night. The Timberwolves have been winning despite not having Karl-Anthony Towns since Nov. 28.

Towns suffered a right calf strain and is not expected to be back for a couple of more weeks.

Minnesota got some more tough news when Rudy Gobert, acquired this past summer from the Jazz in an aggressive move, suffered a groin injury Monday and is questionable for Wednesday night.

That will make it harder to stop two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who is having another outstanding season for the Nuggets. He has battled Gobert many times, and Gobert helped “hold” Jokic to 24 points in the Jan. 2 game.

Without Towns or Gobert, the Timberwolves will rely even more on Anthony Edwards, who is averaging 23.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in his third season after being taken first overall in the 2020 draft. He scored 29 points in the first game against the Nuggets but has shown a willingness to trust his teammates.

In Monday’s loss, instead of putting up a contested shot with time running out, he passed to a wide-open Jaden McDaniels, who missed a 3-pointer.

“I think Ant made a great decision. I mean, Jaden is a heck of a shooter in the corner. You can’t ask for nothing better than that — wide open,” teammate Naz Reid said.

Great decisions have been the hallmark of Jokic’s career, and even more so this season. He is averaging a career-high 9.8 assists and could become the third player to average a triple-double for a season.

He finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists on Tuesday for his NBA-leading 13th triple-double of the season. He did it while missing just one of the 14 shots he attempted to improve his field-goal percentage to 62.7 percent, which ranks sixth best in the league among qualifiers.

“He does it all the time,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said of Jokic’s stat line.

Jokic isn’t the only reason Denver sits atop the Western Conference after winning 17 of their last 20 games. Murray, Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. have played well, and the bench has become better since the team has gotten healthier.

That could pose problems for a short-handed Minnesota team even though the Nuggets played Tuesday night.

–Field Level Media