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Carmelo Anthony scored 33 points to lead the Nuggets past the Timberwolves on Friday.
Denver 99, Minnesota 91
The first? Reputation goes a long way in this league.
The second? The fourth quarter is the only one that matters.
Minnesota outplayed Denver for most of Friday night, but couldn't come up with the big shots down the stretch and Anthony scored 33 points to rally the Nuggets to a 99-91 victory.
"We kept our composure,'' Anthony said. "We never got rattled, even though they were up by (13).''
Playing their first game in 13 years without Garnett, the Timberwolves raced to an early lead, but Anthony, Iverson and the Nuggets rode an overwhelming advantage at the free throw line to the win.
Iverson shot just 4-for-14 from the field, but still managed 24 points thanks to his 15-for-16 performance at the line. Marcus Camby added 14 points, 21 rebounds and six blocks for Denver.
The officials whistled the Timberwolves for 28 fouls and Denver for 17, and the Nuggets attempted 38 free throws to Minnesota's 19.
"This team is going to have to earn the respect of the officials,'' Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said. "We went to the basket just as hard as they did.''
"It's different,'' Iverson said. "I know it's different when a guy gets traded. I hear guys tell me it feels different when they go to Philly and I'm not there. But that's the business.''
With no visible signs of Garnett in the building he once owned - aside from several fans wearing his green Celtics No. 5 jersey - pyrotechnics and a pregame video announced that on Nov. 2, 2007, "A New Era Begins.''
This summer, basketball boss Kevin McHale completely revamped the roster. Only three players remain on the team from just two years ago, prompting Nuggets coach George Karl to ask before the game, "Who are they going to start?''
For the record, it was Jefferson, Gomes, Telfair, McCants and Ratliff, and the group used a 19-2 run in the first 5 minutes to take a 19-6 lead.
The Wolves held that lead for the next three quarters, until Camby's jumper gave Denver an 81-79 lead with 8:02 to play.
"We were in it the whole game,'' McCants said. "If you take away the free throws, we probably win by 20.''
Anthony scored 11 points in the fourth and the Wolves shot just 2-for-16 in the first 10 minutes of the period to let the game slip away.
"We wore them down a little bit, but mentally I thought we stayed in the game,'' Karl said. "As the game went along, we got mentally tougher and that gave us confidence to win the game.''
While the expectations are almost nonexistent for Minnesota, the Nuggets fully expect to be one of the best teams in the powerful Western Conference this season.
Anthony has predicted a 60-win season, and his veteran presence and clutch shot-making was the difference down the stretch.
He bulldozed rookie Corey Brewer on his way to a three-point play during a 12-2 run in the fourth, then threw down an emphatic dunk over two Timberwolves to hold the lead.
"I just know we stepped it up defensively. We were able to get some stops and come down and execute on the other end,'' Iverson said. "We caught a lot of breaks at the end of the game. We felt like it was going to be a matter of time when we would get the lead back and keep it.''
Notes: Wolves G Marko Jaric was given a flagrant foul for clothes-lining Bobby Jones in the second quarter. ... Before every game, Garnett would pour a lot of talcum powder in his hands and dump it an unlucky member of the media. In homage, McCants, who was very close to Garnett, poured a less obnoxious amount in his hand and blew it on press row.