NBA

Young Nuggets, Timberwolves battling inconsistency

MINNEAPOLIS -- Led by two promising big men, the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to develop with a core of young talent.

The two teams have dealt with inconsistency this season in between signs of the potential.

Denver's Nikola Jokic and Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns have their teams on the upside as they meet Saturday in Minnesota.

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Jokic had his sixth straight double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds on Saturday as the Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 123-98 for their fourth win in five games.

"He won the battle but I won the war," Jokic said of his matchup with DeAndre Jordan, the reigning defensive player of the year. "We won the game, that's the only thing that matters to me. We were getting competitive as we're supposed to do. Nothing special, nothing different."

Towns had 37 points and 12 rebounds on Thursday as the Timberwolves won for the fourth time in six games by beating the Clippers.

"He was unbelievable," Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said of Towns. "He nailed a ton of shots, most of them being jump shots, but he really made them all over the floor."

Both centers are in their second year in the NBA. Towns was drafted No. 1 overall by Minnesota. Jokic was a second-round pick, 41st overall.

Towns is 20th in the NBA in scoring at 22.3 points per game and tied for seventh with 12 rebounds a game. Towns hit the game-winning shot against the Clippers on Thursday with 45 seconds left.

"If the ball is in my hands with the game on the line, I feel very confident I'm going to hit those shots," Towns said after scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the fourth quarter. "Nothing changed when I had the ball in my hands. I went in there with extreme confidence, extreme energy and a love for the game."

Jokic has been taken a bigger role for the Nuggets and has resulted in Denver's recent streak. After playing 30 minutes just twice over the first 24 games, Jokic had played at least 30 minutes in four straight games before being limited to 21 minutes in Saturday's blowout victory.

The Nuggets led by as many 35 points on Saturday, their biggest lead of the season. They also held a team under 100 points for the first time since Dec. 8.

"We have so many weapons," Denver's Danilo Gallinari said. "We've been using them the right way, the right time."

The Nuggets will be missing two of their weapons on Sunday. Gary Harris is unlikely to play because of an ankle injury and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay told the Denver Post he won't play after leaving Saturday's game with low back soreness.

Gallinari has dealt with an ankle injury and Darrell Arthur has a knee injury but both played Saturday. Jokic has been dealing with an ankle injury, as well.

The Timberwolves are without their starting point guard, too. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Rubio would miss the game because of personal reasons. Rookie Kris Dunn and second-year guard Tyus Jones should fill in for Rubio.

"I'm way more prepared," Dunn told the Star Tribune, adding: "I think just because there have been way more games from then to now. I'm starting to understand who I am as a player, what my role is on the team. Just figuring out guys, their tendencies and trying to understand coach's philosophy."

Minnesota begins a stretch of 10 of 14 games at home. The Timberwolves are 9-13 at home this season and 6-17 on the road.