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  • Jay Christian

Northwest Divsion Checkup

*Article was written before last night's games

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1.Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2)

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (4-3)

3. Utah Jazz (4-3)

4. Portland Trail Blazers (4-4)

5. Denver Nuggets (3-4)

Minnesota Timberwolves

*Photo via USA Today

The Timberwolves are riding an impressive two game win streak over Eastern Conference heavyweights Atlanta and Chicago. The young nucleus continues to gel as the tandem of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns provide the most exciting Minnesota hoops duo since the KG and Starbury days. Towns in particular has proven to be a double-double machine, averaging 15.5 ppg and 10 rpg in this young season.

The Timberwolves face the Charlotte Hornets before receiving an early test from defending champion Golden State Warriors. After that, it is a solid week of games against Indiana, Memphis, and Miami. The Season of Flip continues, but it will be interesting to see if the team can ride that emotional wave over the course of a grueling 82 game season.

Oklahoma City Thunder

*Photo via USA Today

The Thunder are coming off a 124 - 103 victory over the Phoenix Suns, but that win snapped a three game losing streak for a team playing slightly better than .500 basketball. A lot of NBA insiders have OKC in the NBA Finals, but clearly the team is adjusting to having its two superstars back on the court together and the growing pains of a rookie head coach.

The Thunder next face the Washington*, Philadelphia, and Boston in an east coast swing. Will a Wizards’ fan make the most of Kevin Durant’s homecoming and rush the court with a “Come home, KD” sign? As the Cavalier faithful can attest, it couldn’t hurt.

Utah Jazz

*Photo via USA Today

The Jazz should technically be ranked ahead of the Thunder based solely on record (4-2 versus the Thunders’ 4-3 mark). But, in honor of the College Football Play-offs, there are no real “quality wins” in each of the Jazz’s four victories. The lone exception might be a win over Memphis, but the snickers from the Grizzlies’ 50 point thumping at the hands of the Warriors are finally beginning to die down, so that win does not look as impressive as it will in a few months once the Grizzlies get it going. Still, a win is a win and there is something to be said for winning the games you are supposed to, especially in the loaded Western Conference where 50 wins will likely be the minimum freight for entry into the playoffs.

After a match-up against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, the Jazz take a tour through the very underrated (and very tough) Southeastern division with games against Orlando, Atlanta, and Miami.

Portland Trail Blazers

*Photo via USA Today

After a summer of mass exodus, the Blazers have held their own during this early season, with some great performances against the Grizzlies, Jazz, and Timberwolves. They are coming off a tough loss to a less talented Denver Nuggets team. The new faces continue to hold the line as Damian Lillard picks up where he left off last season, averaging a blistering 27.5 ppg and adding 7.3 assists for good measure. Still, the question for this Blazers team will continue to be whether or not Lillard’s supporting cast can provide enough fire power to slug it out in the high octane Western Conference.

The Blazers embark on a Murder’s Row of sorts over the next week as they face the Spurs twice in five days, and then travel to Houston to face the Rockets and the Grindhouse to square off against the Grizzlies. After that stretch, the Blazers get the honor of playing host to the Los Angeles Clippers. When it rains, it pours--especially in the Pacific Northwest.

(Noteworthy item) - One Blazer who is definitely picking up the offensive slack is shooting guard CJ McCollum. Through 7 games, Lillard and McCollum have been averaging 48.7 points a game this season, the second-highest total behind only Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (56.4).

Denver Nuggets

*Photo via USA Today

The Nuggets look about how you’d expect for a team with a rookie floor general, rookie head coach, and veterans missing significant time on the court. They have wins over the Rockets, Blazers, and in a rookie point guard showdown, D'Angelo Russell and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers’ game included some random pregame chatter from embattled second year Lakers’ coach Byron Russell “explaining” why the Lakers ultimately passed on Emmanuel Mudiay, which of course made its way back to Mudiay and provided some entertainment to an otherwise unassuming Nuggets v. Lakers match-up in November.

The NBA Scheduling Gods will not be looking down favorably on the Nuggets. After a tough battle with Milwaukee, the Nuggets face Houston, Phoenix, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Golden State. For Mudiay, there is baptism by fire and then there is cannonballing into Hades.

(Noteworthy item) - The amount of time that Nuggets’ players are missing on the court cannot be understated; the squad is a walking M.A.S.H. unit. Jameer Nelson (back), Joffrey Lauvergne (back), Wilson Chandler (hip) and Jusuf Nurkic (knee) have all missed time for the Nuggets.

#NBA #DivisionRecaps #Thunder #Timberwolves #Nuggets #Jazz #Blazers

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