Wolves Storm Past Nuggets 117-100 In Return To Target Center

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Fourteen days separated the Minnesota Timberwolves’ most recent games at Target Center, a stretch that sent them to the West Coast and back via seven different cities. After going 2-5 in that stretch and suffering a double-overtime loss on Friday to the top team in the conference, the Wolves looked at Sunday’s game against Denver as a must win.

And from the tip, Minnesota certainly played like it.

The Wolves racked up 68 points in the first half and never looked back on Sunday in a 117-100 win over the Nuggets at Target Center. A sellout crowd of 20,032 watched as Minnesota handled the Western Conference’s eighth-seeded team from start to finish. In the process, the Wolves took another step closer to bridging the gap between themselves and a playoff spot.

“It was one we had to get before we go back on the road,” coach Rick Adelman said. “After (seven) games on that last trip and San Antonio took it to us, we responded against Oklahoma City, we responded tonight. That’s what we need to do the rest of the year.”

Sunday’s game belonged to forward Kevin Love, who backed up his franchise record 51-point performance on Friday with a 30-point, 21-rebound effort against Denver. Love finished 11-of-19 from the field, pulled down seven offensive boards and dished out four assists in such a fashion that hardly made his teammates raise an eyebrow.

This season, such performances are nothing new for the Wolves’ All-Star. It’s his ninth 30-point, 15-rebound effort of the season, which is more than the entire league combined.

“This guy, he’s a player man,” guard Wayne Ellington said, adding: “It’s what I expect from him now.”

Love led the way for the Wolves (24-26), who followed suit with an all-around team effort Denver could not match. Playing without injured starting center Nikola Pekovic (sore left ankle) and guard JJ Barea (right thigh contusion), players up and down the roster stepped up on the offensive end. Guard Luke Ridnour tied a season high with 25 points, Ellington had a season-high 17 points and Michael Beasley chipped in 11.

In total, six players scored in double figures—Martell Webster and Anthony Tolliver each had 10.

The game itself got off to a slow start as technical difficulties with the shot clock stopped the game multiple times in the first quarter. But the Wolves didn’t seem to lose their rhythm in the process; instead, they shot 54 percent from the floor in the first and created early separation. Minnesota went on a 37-9 run to take a 44-22 lead midway through the second quarter, and with 8:16 left in the third Love’s put-back slam gave the Wolves a 28-point advantage—their largest lead at any point this season.

“We played pretty good defense in both halves, so I think that’s what really did it for us,” Love said. “We kept the ball moving and made shots.”

Those shots came from all areas of the court and multiple contributors. Ellington and Tolliver particularly stepped up, combining to go 5-for-11 from 3-point range and chipping in 28 of the team’s 41 bench points.

Tolliver, whose minutes have fluctuated this season, said it’s important to be ready whenever the team needs him.

“We need a full roster to win games like this,” Tolliver said.

Adelman said both players have worked hard on their games even when the playing time has not been there.

“That’s the thing we’ve looked for this whole year, seeing how guys respond when they don’t get the time they hope they’d get or the consistent time, and then when they do get an opportunity how they respond,” Adelman said. “Pek did it earlier in the year. These guys are doing it now. They kept themselves ready to go. Their opportunity is here, and they’re grabbing it.”

Pekovic isn’t scheduled to make the upcoming trip with Minnesota as the Wolves travel to Memphis on Tuesday and Charlotte on Wednesday. Barea was a late scratch today and his upcoming availability is questionable. Adelman said Ridnour, who is also “banged up,” stepped up and played a strong game with the Wolves shorthanded in the back court.

“Luke warmed up and he was feeling good (Sunday), and we needed that game from him,” Adelman said.

Denver (26-23) got 17 points out of Kenneth Faried, 14 points from Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, 13 points from JaVale McGee and 12 points from Wilson Chandler. McGee added 11 rebounds, and Lawson had five assists.

Adelman said the Timberwolves needed this game to stay in the playoff picture, and the team understands this is the type of effort they’ll need throughout the rest of the year.

“If we want to stay in the hunt, we need to win these games,” Adelman said.

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