MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 15 (Ticker) -- Raef LaFrentz
scored 30 points, including the go-ahead layup with three seconds left, as the Denver Nuggets won consecutive road games for the first time in over a year with a 99-98 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Minnesota led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, but Denver rallied behind multiple 3-pointers from James Posey
and LaFrentz and tied the game at 84-84 on a shot from beyond the arc by George McCloud
with 9:09 left.
After Posey tied it again, 94-94, on a driving dunk through the lane with 2:59 to play, Anthony Peeler
answered with a jumper 15 seconds later.
got the Nuggets within 96-95 after hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 2:13 to go, but neither team could score until Johnson found a cutting LaFrentz for a finger roll with 27 seconds left.
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Avery Johnson looks for one of his season-high 16 assists in the contest.
It was Denver's first lead since 21-19 late in the first quarter.
After a timeout, All-Star Wally Szczerbiak
drove the right baseline and flipped a shot over LaFrentz with 14 seconds left. On the next possession, Voshon Lenard
found LaFrentz open underneath, and the center scored a layup with three seconds to go.
"They switched, and Felipe (Lopez)
left me for some reason," LaFrentz said. "I think he was going to go and contest Voshon's shot. Vo made a heckuva play. That was a tough pass to make. I almost fumbled the ball, as it kind of slipped in my hand a little bit. But I was able to get it down."
Minnesota All-Star Kevin Garnett
shot an airball on a turnaround jumper from the left baseline just before the buzzer.
"(LaFrentz) hit me on the back door and got a layup on me," Garnett said. "I take the full blame for the game. If I had stopped that layup there, we're still up one. I saw Felipe going with Raef on the switch, and just reacted to Voshon and came off. He passed it back to Raef, and he got a layup."
LaFrentz was 12-of-17 from the field, including a career-high 6-of-8 from beyond the arc, for the Nuggets, who had not won back-to-back road games since January 3-9, 2001.
"There was no reason for us not to come up here and play to win," Denver coach Mike Evans said. "We have been going pretty hard in practices after games. We were not going to use the back-to-back as a reason not to succeed in the game tonight. We were prepared for this."
Johnson had 18 points and a season-high 16 assists and Posey chipped in 15 points for Denver, which is 2-0 on its four-game, five-day road trip. The Nuggets had not won consecutive games overall since December 13-15.
Denver, which has won three of its last four games at the Target Center, played its second straight game without starting point guard Nick Van Exel
, who is nursing an inflamed left elbow.
"For back-to-back games, we've had the same two lineups," Johnson said. "That helps. We've basically had the same rotation both nights. It's amazing what just consistency can do for you. Consistency in the rotation, consistency in the approach, consistency in the effort."
Peeler scored 24 points and Garnett added 20 and 14 rebounds for Minnesota, which fell to just 21-4 at home, still the second-best mark in the NBA behind Sacramento's 27-1.
added 10 points but shot just 3-of-12.
"We're a great-shooting team, and tonight we just couldn't knock it down for whatever reason," Billups said. "We were getting a lot of wide-open jumpers but couldn't knock them down. That rarely happens for us."
Though outrebounded by Minnesota, 51-42, Denver outshot the Timberwolves, 48 percent (40-of-83) to 44 percent (38-of-86).
The Nuggets actually shot better from the arc than the line. Denver sank 56 percent (10-of-18) of its 3-point attempts and only 53 percent (9-of-17) from the line.
Minnesota, which converted just 58 percent (14-of-24) at the line, made 6-of-7 3-pointers in the first half but just 2-of-10 in the second 24 minutes.
"Both the last two games were important games," LaFrentz said. "This game we viewed as winnable, and one that we wanted to win to get some momentum going into this road trip. Tonight, I don't think anybody expected it, but all we wanted to do was come out and play hard, and give ourselves a chance to win down the stretch. We did that, and hit our open shots."
"We invented ways to lose tonight," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders added. "We had more mental defensive lapses. We switched when we never have switched, we helped out when we've never helped out. It's extremely disappointing. We showed no defensive discipline. We got what we deserved."