DENVER, April 4 (Ticker) -- The Denver Nuggets are quietly becoming the team nobody wants to play in the Western Conference.

Voshon Lenard hit a jumper with 11 seconds left as the Nuggets posted an 88-87 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Lenard, who scored only eight points, dribbled around a defender and calmly spotted up for the jumper from the right side.

"I was kind of scrambling around when I got it," Lenard said. "I just wanted to put up a good shot to give us a chance and fortunately, I made it."

Lenard's game-winning shot, his second in the last seven games, gave Denver its 11th win by three points or fewer -- which did not surprise him.

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Juwan Howard scored 14 of his team-high 20 points in the second half, and pulled down 14 rebounds.
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"Now we're understanding each other," he said. "We're just going out, having fun and trying to play with each other better."

Following a timeout, All-Star Kevin Garnett took the inbounds pass but was forced to pass out of a double-team. The ball wound up in the hands of Anthony Peeler, who had hit consecutive 3-pointers to give Minnesota a 87-83 lead with under a minute left.

"On our last play we want to get the ball to Kevin and let him make a decision," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said.

But Peeler's short jumper from the left side rimmed out. Denver's Juwan Howard grabbed the rebound and let the clock run out.

"They trapped, we swung the ball," added Garnett, who recorded his 53rd double-double with 21 points and 18 rebounds. "AP had a shot, he missed it and then we didn't get a second."

"Defense always wins ball games and it's been paying off for us lately," Nuggets forward Donnell Harvey said. "I know he's an All-Star (Garnett). I just wanted to concentrate on my defense and give a lot of effort."

Denver has been beset by injuries and has nothing to play for as it will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season.

But in the last month, the Nuggets have recorded victories over contenders such as Portland, Seattle and Utah.

"We don't have anything to play for but it's fun being out on the court making a difference in the playoff race," McCloud said. "We're the spoilers right now."

"These are fun moments, with the game on the line, nip and tuck," Denver coach Mike Evans added. "It's fun to see who's going to step out in that situation. Vo (Lenard- had to take the last shot. He really wanted that shot. The guys are really making the effort, a good intense game with good effort."

Luckily for the rest of the Western Conference, only two of Denver's last seven games are against playoff teams. But Minnesota has to close out its season against the pesky Nuggets. The Wolves are fifth in the West, five games behind San Antonio, but now only one game ahead of Portland, which defeated the Knicks at home.

"We have to come out with more urgency," Garnett said. "We need to prepare ourselves for the next level and as a team we're not doing it. At times they played harder than us and at times they executed better than us."

"We have been up and down all year," Peeler added. "We can't dwell on something like this. We need to make sure we're prepared for the playoffs. You can't let them hang around like that and it bit us in the foot at the end of the game."

The Wolves lost eight of their first nine games last month and had their grasp on the final home-court seed erased while the Spurs reeled off 13 straight wins in March.

The Nuggets used a 10-0 run in midway through the third quarter to take a 61-56 lead. But shortly thereafter, Minnesota switched to a zone defense, which gave the Nuggets fits. Denver had just one foul shot in a span of four minutes before Howard converted a reverse layup with 2:12 left.

Garnett tied the contest with a tip-in and Peeler drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Wolves an 84-81 lead with 59 seconds to go.

After Howard got the Nuggets within 84-83 with a pair of foul shots, Peeler drilled another 3-pointer from the same spot on Minnesota's next trip.

Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak combined to make 16-of-31 shots but just 6-of-16 in the second half.