Wolves try to contain Nikola Jokic on Nuggets visit

When the Minnesota Timberwolves acquired Rudy Gobert from Utah this offseason, it seemed like he might be the last piece they needed to be contenders.

But as the new year unfolds, Minnesota is far from on top and looking for answers.

The Timberwolves, after a six-game losing streak to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night, ended in a demoralizing home loss and will face the top team in the Western Conference when the Denver Nuggets come to Minneapolis on Monday night.

Minnesota is five games below .500 and 11th in the Western Conference. Center Karl-Anthony Towns hasn’t played since Nov. 28 with a right calf injury, but should be back soon but isn’t scheduled to face Denver.

Minnesota is 6-10 since Towns was sidelined with an injury.

Gobert has faced Jokic many times in the Jazz era, and Monday should present another challenge for him.

That’s a concern, but the bigger problem for Minnesota is getting out of the downward spiral. After his 116-104 loss to Detroit, the Timberwolves held a players-only meeting to find a solution.

“We have two options: sit back and feel sorry for ourselves or just look forward and maintain the mentality that it’s still a long season and just keep winning and we have a lot of time left. The better,” Gobert told The Athletic after the meeting.

Monday’s game is the first of four matches between the teams, all over six weeks.

One of Minnesota’s advantages was that the Nuggets closed out five games in eight nights Sunday night against Boston, but they’re gaining momentum. Denver defeated the Celtics, who have the best record in the NBA, 123-111.

Aaron Gordon, who had 18 points and seven assists in Sunday’s win, said, “We can come out and handle business.” It’s a problem.”

One player who can rest for Monday’s game is guard Jamal Murray. Murray sat out Sunday’s game as part of the management of his surgically repaired left knee.

Aside from Murray and Jeff Green, who is out with a broken right arm, Denver has been playing with a stacked roster and has been defensively better in the last three weeks. Since then, they’ve gone 10-2, with coach Michael Malone saying one key is defense.

After Sunday’s win, he said, “Within that range, we probably rank 10th[in the NBA]in defensive efficiency.” But defense wins.”

It helps to have unique players like Jokic, who racked up 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists against the Celtics for his ninth triple-double of the season.

–Field level media

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