DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 20: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets shoots a free throw against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 20, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Miscues Hurt Nuggets as Minnesota Rallies for Victory

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

Thursday night’s game was the kind of slugfest the Nuggets had largely been able to sort out at home this season. But the Timberwolves wouldn’t let the Nuggets execute in the most critical moments. And the Nuggets didn’t help themselves with a bevy of turnovers.

The miscues, and the clutch fourth quarter play out of Minnesota’s stars, resulted in a 112-104 loss for the Nuggets on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center. It was just the team’s third loss at the Pepsi Center this season, and snapped an eight-game home win streak.

The turnovers are what stood out most to Nuggets coach Michael Malone.

“When you have 22 turnovers for 21 (points), obviously Nikola (Jokić) has 10 of them, and they only have nine turnovers for nine points,” Malone said, “and we talked about it going in (to the game); they turn people over, they score off of those turnovers, it ignites their break, it allows them to score in the paint. We did an awful job of valuing the ball tonight.”

Even when the Nuggets played well, the turnovers were omnipresent. Powered by stingy defense, the Nuggets led 24-17 after the first quarter. But they’d committed seven turnovers, which the Wolves turned into four points.

And so on, throughout the game.

“Sometimes, you see that (a teammate) is open and you don’t see the other guy,” Jokić said. “It is an unfortunate mistake.”

And what will turn things around in that area?

“Don’t throw the ball if it is risky,” Jokić said. “And shoot when you’re open.”

The Nuggets 72 shots taken was a season low, and tied for the third-lowest shot total in any game over the last five seasons, including this season. And yet, through it all, this was a game they led going into the fourth quarter. But they could not hold on, as the Timberwolves trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford led the rally, scoring 30 of their team’s 32 points in the final frame.

All of that put a damper on another huge game out of Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray, who poured in 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting. It was his fourth game of at least 28 points this month. He nailed 5-of-6 shots from the 3-point line, a big chunk of the team’s 13 treys overall.

Jokić had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists in his first start since returning to the lineup after missing time with a sprained ankle. Trey Lyles added 15 points off the bench, and Mason Plumlee stuffed the boxscore with 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

In a road-heavy month, the Nuggets now hit the road again for a pair of back-to-back games at Portland and Golden State.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.