GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Nuggets - Dec. 12, 2012

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Check all night for updated coverage of tonight's game, including analysis, game highlights, postgame interviews and photos.

Final: The Wolves picked up the win tonight 108-105 tonight, overcoming a tough first half shooting from the field and putting together a solid effort in the fourth. Minnesota's free throws made it possible, hitting 30-of-37 tonight. Pekovic finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, Kirilenko had 18 and Ridnour had 15. Barea had 17 points off the bench, and Cunningham added 12 on 5-of-5 shooting. For Denver, Faried finished with 26 and 14, and Gallinari had 24. Lawson had 11 assists, but nine of them came in the first quarter. Wolves are on the road Friday at New Orleans before coming home Saturday against Dallas. MIN 108, DEN 105

Q4 21.1: The Wolves forced their biggest turnover of the night, stealing the ball from Ty Lawson and turning it into a transition jam for AK. What a change in fortunes, as moments ago the Nuggets got the ball thanks to a five-second inbound violation on Minnesota. Wolves up 105-100 with 21.2 seconds left. MIN 105, DEN 100

Q4 34.4: This one looked iced, but the Nuggets are on a 14-7 run here and have cut the Wolves' lead to three with 34.4 left. Timeout on the floor, Minnesota's ball. Game on. MIN 103, DEN 100

Q4 3:11: The Nuggets cut the lead to five and the Wolves needed a spark. AK delivered with a great finish off a pass from Shved that put the Wolves up 93-86, and the Wolves have extended the lead to 10 after their latest field goal, a nice pull-up jumper by JJ Barea. Barea has 13 points, again a really nice night for him. MIN 96, DEN 86

Q4 5:58: JJ Barea continues to be impressive over the last several games. He seems to be adjusting back into game play after his foot injury kept him out much of November, and tonight he is again providing a spark off the bench. He's got 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting and six assists, and his latest field goal was a nice bank near the baseline that put the Wolves up 11. MIN 91, Nuggets 80

Q4 9:25: Time ticks along here and the Wolves quietly keep adding to their lead. They're up 11 right now, led by Pek's 20 points on 6-of-9 shooting. There have been 15 lead changes tonight, and Denver essentially holds most of the statistical advantages except for turnovers, points off turnovers, free throws and fast break points. But that's the difference right now. MIN 85, DEN 74

End Q3: The Wolves are up 77-70 after 3 thanks in large part to free throw shooting, which has been a tough area for this team in a lot of games this season. That's encouraging, but with the Nuggets continuously getting into foul trouble each quarter it's going to be important to keep that trend going from the line in the fourth. They're currently 24-of-28.

The Wolves are paced by Pek's 18 points and 10 rebounds. He's having a productive night from the field going 5-of-7, and he's also 8-of-8 from the line. Love continues to struggle; he's got 8 points on 3-of-17 shooting and is 0-for-3 from the line. But if he makes up for it in the fourth, the Wolves will be in good shape. Minnesota leads despite shooting 37 percent from the field and Denver shooting 47 percent. The key there is turnovers: Denver has 16 that have led to 23 Minnesota points. MIN 77, DEN 70

Q3 2:54: More great energy from Shved as he picked up a steal while the Nuggets were in transition, then found Ridnour for an open 3-pointer that put the Wolves up 67-65 moments ago. The Wolves still hold a 69-67 lead, and they've definitely made good on those turnover opportunities tonight. Minnesota has 21 points off 14 Denver turnovers. Love is just two points way from a double-double (8 & 12) and Pekovic is also closing in on one of his own (18 & 9). MIN 69, DEN 67

Q3 5:44: Andrei Kirilenko once again shows his ability to make something out of a broken play with his vision and court awareness. He just chased down a loose ball in transition, then found Pekovic heading toward the lane for a quick lay-up that gave the Wolves a 64-63 lead. Minnesota is winning the turnover battle right now 13-8, and they're continuing to battle with the Nuggets who have cooled down from the field. In other news, Malcolm Lee left the game late in the second with a hyper-extended right knee and will not return tonight. Shved replaced him in the ballgame with the rest of the starters to open up the second half. MIN 64, DEN 63

End Q2: The Wolves really got bailed out with the Nuggets' foul trouble late in the second. Free throws helped Minnesota come from 12 points down to take a 51-50 lead at the half. One particularly big swing was broken defense by the Wolves leading to a wide open look by Gallinari from just inside the arc. But Gallinari missed, AK was fouled on the rebound and he tied things up at 47-47. Pekovic then hit 2 free throws to make it a 49-47, and Shved hit 2 more to make it 51-47. Denver is shooting 55 percent compared to Minnesota's 36 percent, but the Wolves have the lead at half. MIN 51, DEN 50

Q2 2:51: Wolves are still struggling from the field, but if there's a positive in their offensive game it's that they've got 12 assists on their 17 field goals. They've got a decent amout of ball movement tonight, but they're not finishing on their shots. The Wolves got their biggest energy boost off the bench; their reserves have 19 of their 40 points tonight. Minnesota is 0-for-7 from 3-point land, another area they'll need to get going tonight. They're also getting outscored 34-26 in the paint. DEN 47, MIN 40

Q2 5:56: With Josh Howard out due to illness tonight, great opportunity for D-Will to get some extra minutes. He's gotten seven minutes of play here in the first half, all at small forward alongside Cunningham at the 4 and Stiemsma at the 5. He's 1-of-4 with four points, but he's been active. We'll see if he is able to break out tonight against the Nuggets. One thing is for sure: He's spent a lot of extra time in the gym after practice and before games with the team's player development staff, and he's trying to improve his game during this stretch of lower minutes. DEN 38, MIN 34

Q2 8:40: Alexey Shved has been active early in the second quarter. He hit a long 2, and then on a subsequent possession he found Greg Stiemsma who connected on a nice midrange jumper. The Wolves are down by six and have pushed their shooting percentage up to 39.5 percent here. All reserves are in: Barea, Shved, D-Will, Cunningham and Stiemsma. DEN 35, MIN 29

End Q1: After 1, the Wolves are trailing 29-21 and are looking for a way to break out of their offensive funk. They're trailing by 8 despite shooting 32.1 percent from the field. Love is leading the team with 7 points, but he's 3-of-10 from the field. Pek has 6 but he's sitting with two fouls, and AK and Luke have 4. For Denver, Faried came out hitting 6-of-8 and has 14 points to lead all scorers. Ty Lawson has nine assists through 12 minutes. DEN 29, MIN 21

Q1 1:11: The Wolves are shooting 8-for-25 from the field and are 0-for-4 from 3-point range. For the most part getting some good looks, including two good looks from Shved on the team's last possession, but the shots aren't falling right now. AK had a good look from the win moments ago, too, and it just didn't fall. You'd expect those fortunes to change over the course of the game. By comparison, the Nuggets are up by eight because they're shooting 66.7 percent from the field. No advantage in fast break points as each team tied 8-8, but Nuggets now with 20-14 advantage in paint. As we come out of timeout, Derrick Williams checks in alongside Stiemsma, Love, Shved and Barea. Interesting as D-Will will be getting some time at the 3. DEN 27, MIN 19

Q1 5:08: It's been a tough start for Kevin Love here tonight, as the two-time All-Star is currently 0-for-6 from the field missing both from the outside and a couple near the rim. By comparison, power forward Kenneth Faried is pacing the Nuggets with 11 points on 5-of-6 from the field tonight. Early on we've seen two really nice outlet feeds from Luke Ridnour to AK on the fast break, each resulting in highlight-reel plays. The first was a quick jam in transition, and the second was an alley-oop dunk. Denver got off to a slow start last time they were here, but they're shooting 58 percent tonight. Minnesota is hanging tough despite starting 6-of-15 from the field. DEN 16, MIN 14

Pregame 7:10 PM: Starters for tonight:

Nuggets: PG-Ty Lawson, SG-Andre Iguodala, SF-Danilo Gallinari, PF-Kenneth Faried, C-Kosta Koufos

Timberwolves: PG-Luke Ridnour, SG-Malcolm Lee, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Kevin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 7:00 PM: The Nuggets were surprised last time they were in town when Kevin Love returned unexpectedly after missing nine games with a broken right hand. George Karl said the Nuggets weren't going to be surprised this time regarding Ricky Rubio. Though Rubio isn't playing, they would be ready.

"I can't deny we've talked about it. We've talked about it, and I guess someone texted something about it guaranteeing that he won't play and that made us even more suspicious," Karl said. "I hope he comes back I wanted him to be back on the court, it's good for the league, I think he's a great young player and he plays the game how I like it to be played, I hope to get him back on the court and if it has to be tonight, we'll make that adjustment, too."

Karl said the bigger issue is knowing Love will be playing tonight, a guy who put up 34 points and 14 rebounds in his season debut against Denver. He said Love has so much ability to change up his game both inside and out it's hard to contain him.

"That's a tough one. You can play outside, you can play inside; last time we played him he beat us a lot on the outside, and then we played small on him and he went inside, it seemed we had a little better control of him on the inside but I think how he motivates the Minnesota team," Karl said. "Sometimes guys scoring a lot of points doesn't energize a team and sometimes it does. There's a lot of other guys out there we have to worry about, too."

Pregame 6:30 PM: There is no question that tonight’s game means a lot to both the Timberwolves and the Nuggets. As divisional rivals both at .500 early in this season, games like tonight carry a lot of weight when you get later into the season. Both Wolves coach Rick Adelman and Nuggets coach George Karl have serious admiration for each other and each other’s team, and neither are taking this game lightly tonight.

For Adelman, the Nuggets pose a puzzling dilemma. They are talented and athletic in their back court, headlined by Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson, and they have speed and shiftiness that strike from the perimeter. They can play small and be successful, and they can be equally tough when they play big. Last time, when the Nuggets came back from 17 down to win 101-94 on Nov. 21, Denver shot 42 percent from 3-point range and showed their ability to come from behind.

Adelman said the Nuggets’ heavy road schedule early in the season is a big reason for their 11-11 start.

“I don’t know what George did to Commissioner Stern or whatever, but their schedule is brutal,” Adelman joked. “I think they played 10 of their first 30 at home, 20 on the road. That’s a tough schedule.”

Minnesota had four days off coming in, while Denver has played two games in the last three nights and played last night against Detroit. Karl said they can look at that negatively, or they can try to build off a solid team win against the Pistons, a 101-94 victory in Auburn Hills.

“Last night we controlled the game,” Karl said. “Minnesota’s going to be, I think they’re a good team. When they get healthy they’re going to be fighting for the playoff spots.”

The Wolves will again be without Ricky Rubio tonight, and his timetable is still unclear. Adelman said pregame that Rubio is ready to return, but the team has been cautious about making sure he’s in position not only to contribute but to maintain longterm health.

More news and notes to come. Follow along here all night for in-game updates and analysis, and make sure to check postgame for interviews, analysis, highlights,

Here are a few game notes as we prepare for tonight:

  • The Wolves trail in the series, 38-61, and are 23-27 at home. Denver has won 20 of the last 22 meetings between the two clubs. The Nuggets have scored 100+ points in the last 16 games of the series.

  • The Wolves rank 4th in the NBA in scoring defense, allowing just 91.89 points per game, 4th in opponents' field goal percentage at 43.1%, 3rd in rebounding at 45.61 rpg and 7th in blocked shots at 6.33 bpg.

  • Kevin Love has recorded a double-double in eight of the nine games he's played in this season. Over the last three seasons, he has recorded a double-double in 120 of his 139 games played. Love made his 2012-13 debut vs. Denver on Nov. 21, scoring 34 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

  • Alexey Shved has scored in double-digits in four of the last five games, averaging 13.6 ppg over that stretch. He has scored 95 of his 191 points in the fourth quarter this season. Overall, Shved ranks 4th among rookies in scoring (10.6) and 2nd in assists (3.6).

  • Luke Ridnour has scored in double figures in the last six games, averaging 13.3 ppg, on 34-for-63 (54.0%) shooting, and 5.0 apg over that span.

  • J.J. Barea has scored in double-digits the last four games, averaging 11.5 points, on 18-for-33 (54.5%) shooting, and 5.0 assists over that stretch.

  • The Wolves rank 3rd in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (27.1) and have allowed the fewest free throw attempts (19.8). Minnesota has attempted 30+ FTs in a game eight times this season and allowed less than 20 FTs in a game 10 times.

  • Denver has an 11-11 record, including a 6-10 mark on the road. The Nuggets are 1-3 in the 2nd game of a back-to-back (they won in Detroit last night, 101-94). Tonight's game marks the end of a five-game road trip (2-2) for the Nuggets. After tonight, Denver will have played 17 of its first 23 games on the road.

  • The Nuggets rank 1st in offensive rebounds per game with 14.14 and 5th in total rebounds per game at 45.18. Denver also ranks 6th in blocked shots with 6.59 bpg -- the team is 4-1 when blocking 10+ shots this season.

  • Ty Lawson has scored 23+ points in three of the last four games, shooting 28-for-48 (58.3%) from the field in those three games, including 8-for-10 from three-point range.

  • Corey Brewer has scored in double-digits in the last five games, averaging 17.6 ppg on 39-for-70 (55.7%) shooting from the field over that span.

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