The Denver Nuggets have been searching for some spark off the bench in the first two weeks of the season. They might have discovered one in Sunday night’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
They will find out if the spark will carry over when the two teams meet in Denver on Tuesday night.
The Nuggets ended a brief skid with the victory over the struggling Timberwolves thanks to Nikola Jokic’s fourth triple-double and Jamal Murray’s 36 points. But big games from those two are becoming the norm, and Denver needed someone else to step up, especially with Michael Porter Jr. out due to coronavirus issues.
That someone else was Argentinean Facundo Campazzo, who had his best game in Sunday’s win. Campazzo scored 15 points — on five 3-pointers made — and had three steals in what was a mini breakout night for him.
“It is an amazing feeling right now,” Campazzo said after the game. “I just tried to put 100 percent in each side of the court. Try to put 100 percent of my life in defense and try to take my shots when I’m alone. Try to make the right decisions. I work so hard to be here so I want to take any opportunity.”
His stats alone were encouraging, but what helped Denver even more was his energy, which led to a 38-16 edge in bench scoring.
“Those are game-changing plays that he does for us,” Jokic said. “He’s a game-changer. Hopefully he’s going to do that for a long period of time.”
Minnesota has lost four in a row after winning its first two games, and a big reason for the losses has been the absence of Karl-Anthony Towns in the middle. Towns suffered a dislocated left wrist and will be out for Tuesday’s game. Coach Ryan Saunders said he will likely be reevaluated this week.
The Timberwolves are also without Josh Okogie due to a hamstring injury. Okogie isn’t as valuable as Towns, but his absence has made a difference.
“We miss him on the defensive end, but we miss his spirit. His spirit is something that really helps us,” Saunders said. “We miss Josh, but especially on the defensive end. We know he’s a very talented individual defender, but he’s also a defensive leader, and we miss that.”
Okogie worked out on the court before Sunday’s game, but Saunders said he will need to reach certain thresholds to get back in the lineup.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team will try to end a losing streak against a tough Denver team that may have found some rhythm. Despite the 15-point loss, D’Angelo Russell found a silver lining. Minnesota rallied from 12 down in the second quarter to take a lead into the fourth before the Nuggets took control.
“I don’t think we’re ready to win yet. I think we’re still figuring out how to lose,” Russell said. “It sounds crazy, but the way you lose says a lot about the team. And I think (Sunday), how we lost, was a good way to lose. We did the right things throughout the game.”
–Field Level Media