Wolves Top Nuggets 108-105
Web Editorial Associate
Wolves coach Rick Adelman said it before the game: The Nuggets are a team that can come back on you.
The Timberwolves learned from their mistakes during their loss to Denver three weeks ago and stifled a late comeback Wednesday night to come away with a 108-105 victory.
“Their history is that they come at you, and they don't stop playing," Adelman said. “We kind of gave it away at the end, but we did enough to win it."
Wolves vs Nuggets
Up by as much as 14 with less than eight minutes remaining, the Timberwolves let the Nuggets creep back to within two points in the game’s closing seconds. But strong defensive play at the end and key free throws from J.J. Barea sealed the win for Minnesota.
Denver outshot Minnesota 65 to 32 percent, respectively, in the first quarter, but the Wolves regained control with 44 seconds left in the second quarter. From there, the big men led them through a back-and-forth third quarter, as Nikola Pekovic scored eight points and Kevin Love grabbed eight rebounds.
The Wolves took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter and were seemingly cruising to victory, but the Denver Nuggets stayed true to form and made a strong late push.
“They came back,” Barea said. “They always come back—but we had a good stop to finish the game.”
That key stop was when the Nuggets had the ball and were down just three points with 34 seconds left. Ty Lawson received the inbound, but he was trapped between Barea and Andrei Kirilenko up top. The ball popped loose, and Dante Cunningham lobbed it up to a sprinting Kirilenko for a dunk.
“They came together beautifully, and the ball kind of popped loose,” Cunningham said. “I happened to be there weak side, and AK was streaking.”
Minnesota’s bench rose to the occasion, as they poured in 45 points—including 17 from Barea and 12 from Cunningham. Barea also recorded eight assists and five rebounds with just one turnover.
“He’s aggressive, he’s fast,” Cunningham said of Barea. “Guys can’t keep him in front of you. He makes the next best pass, he finds guys underneath the basket or on the perimeter for threes. He has a good balance of both scoring and getting people the ball.”
While Kevin Love had a poor night shooting (just 3-for-17 from the field), his fellow post player Pekovic enjoyed a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Luke Ridnour also had 15 points, including the team’s only two 3-pointers.
“Pek and then the guards all played well,” Adelman said. “It's a game we have to win. We have to beat teams in our conference.”
Kenneth Faried had a monster first quarter for the Nuggets, posting 14 points and five rebounds. He finished with 26 and 14 for the game, accompanied in double figure scoring by Danilo Gallinari (24), Ty Lawson (17) and former Minnesota player Corey Brewer (14). Lawson also dished out 11 assists.
Leader of the Pack: J.J. Barea
Although Pekovic scored more points, Barea stepped in after starting shooting guard Malcolm Lee left due to injury and dropped second half 13 points to help lead the Wolves to victory. He also contributed eight assists and five rebounds to round out an excellent night when Minnesota needed him most.
“He stepped up in making big shots,” Love said of Barea. “He’s just playing with a different confidence right now, he’s being that guy off the bench who is really giving us a big lift.”
Highlight of the Night
With 34 seconds left in the game, the Nuggets were down by three points and inbounded the ball to guard Ty Lawson. Barea and Kirilenko trapped him at the top of the key, forcing the ball loose. Cunningham scooped it up and lobbed a pass to Kirilenko who slammed the ball home.
The Numbers Game
Quote of the Night
“It was a team win tonight. Our star Kevin struggled a little bit, but everyone else stepped up. That’s when a team becomes good.”— Wolves guard J.J. Barea
The Wolves travel to New Orleans on Friday and then return home Saturday to host the Mavericks. After that, they play both Florida teams on a back-to-back with Orlando and Miami.