Nuggets Spoil Wolves, Miller's Finale In 131-102 Win

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Anthony Tolliver has very few fond memories of Brad Miller as an opponent. Throughout Miller’s 14-year career he’s earned a reputation as a hard-nosed force, a defender who will annoy, claw and grab his way into a favorable position and keep you away from the rim any way possible.

But as a teammate, Tolliver seemed hard pressed to find someone he respects more. As Miller finished up his NBA career on Thursday in the Wolves’ 131-102 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Target Center, Tolliver said Miller’s presence in the team’s locker room was immeasurable.

“I learned a lot from him, maybe more than anybody I’ve ever learned from,” Tolliver said. “Especially at the high post area. He just reads and there are so many things you can learn from him. He was great for me personally, and also for the rest of the team.”

Most of the Wolves wore blue headbands to honor Miller and the longevity he’s sustained in the league—a 14-year journey that took the undrafted free agent to Charlotte, Indiana, Chicago, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota.

He spent five years playing for Adelman in three different cities, and it was fitting that Miller played his final game of his career with Adelman on the bench. Miller, who was emotional as he hugged his teammates and his coach as he left the floor in the fourth quarter, was at a loss for words in trying to describe what Adelman meant to his career.

“I got to know him, his wife, his kids, his style,” Miller said. “Everything we did together, we just wanted to win.”

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Unfortunately for the Wolves on Thursday, everything Adelman said Miller embodied in his career—defense, toughness, grit—was lacking at Target Center in a season-ending loss to the Nuggets. Minnesota (26-40) allowed 80 points in the paint as Denver shot 62 percent from the field and moved the ball in transition to the point where the Wolves, rotating their entire bench into the game, couldn’t keep up.

Adelman said it was tough seeing Miller’s last game come in a game that juxtaposed his style throughout his career.

“That’s not how he plays,” Adelman said. “In his career he’s going to give you everything he has.”

The Wolves had no answer for Denver on Thursday, a team playing with a shot to lock up the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile, the Wolves were playing for pride and for a chance to win two of their final three games after a difficult final month of the season. After cutting their first quarter deficit to 29-25 heading into the second, Denver went on a 16-4 run and never looked back.

The Nuggets (38-28) lead the league with 103.7 points per game this season, and in four games against Minnesota they’ve averaged 112.0 points a night.

Seven players scored in double figures for Denver, led by JaVale McGee’s 19 points off the bench. Arron Afflalo had 18 points, Danilo Gallinari had 17 and Corey Brewer had 12 points. Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson and Timofey Mozgov each had 15 points on the night.

For the Wolves, guard JJ Barea finished off his first season in Minnesota with a 20-point effort to go along with five assists. Center Nikola Pekovic had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Michael Beasley had 13 points, Wayne Ellington had 12 points and Martell Webster had 11 points.

Miller’s final game included three staples of his career—he drained a 3-pointer, added four assists and received a hard elbow to the face just before he left the floor for the last time.

Ask him, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“As soon as I talk about it, it gets me,” Miller said of his emotions. “I’ve been playing for 30 years, so when it’s time, it’s time.”

Miller played 128 minutes this season, scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. But if Adelman has anything to say about it, future Wolves teams will have players who embody the type of toughness and winning philosophy Miller provides.

“He cares about the game,” Adelman said. “I knew he didn’t have a lot left but the influence in the locker room. And he tried. He tried to talk to the guys and make them understand what it takes to be successful. You’ve got to remember he was undrafted. He became an All-Star, he had a 14-year career, and I wish him nothing but the best.”

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