Third Quarter Struggles Doom Wolves Against Nuggets

Mitchell HansenWeb Editorial AssociateTwitter

So far this season, Minnesota has seen opponents claw their way back into a sizable Wolves lead during the third quarter.

On Thursday night, Denver did just that.

The Wolves fell to the Nuggets 102-99 Thursday in a Northwest Division showdown at the Target Center.

Minnesota jumped out to a 37-25 lead in the first quarter and was up by as many as 15 points in the game. In the third quarter, the Nuggets outscored the Wolves 33-14 to regain the lead and not look back.

“It started earlier in this game. At the end of the first quarter, I sensed that we were just trading baskets with (Denver). . . We gave them a lot of confidence early in the game,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said postgame. “I felt that (in the third quarter) guys were trying to get us back into the game by themselves and you can’t do that. What that leads to is tough shots, poor floor balance and easy buckets.

“We gave up 30 (points) in the second and 33 in the third and then you make a mad rush at the end to try and have a shot at it. It’s not the way to go.”

The Wolves outscored the Nuggets 24-14 in the final quarter and had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but Nemanja Bjelica’s game-tying three rimmed out as time expired.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 32 points and 14 rebounds to lead Minnesota. Andrew Wiggins had 25 points, Zach LaVine and Bjelica had 14 points each and Kris Dunn had three points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals.

“We keep building great leads," Towns said after the game. "It seems like we keep having half the puzzle done, but we don’t finish the puzzle. We got to go back to the drawing board tomorrow.”

The Wolves began the game shooting the ball well, highlighted by shooting 7-for-8 from deep. Minnesota went on to finish 9-for-22 from three and shot 35-for-88 (39.8 percent) from the field in the game.

Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler each finished with 19 points to lead Denver. Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and five rebounds and Jameer Nelson had 14 points, seven assists and seven rebounds for the Nuggets, who shot 39-for-81 (48.1 percent) from the field.

The Wolves fall to 1-3 on the season with the loss. The Nuggets improve to 2-2 overall.

“When you think about these games, they are coming down to one possession,” Thibodeau said. “One mental mistake can come between winning and losing.”

Highlight of the Game

With 50.4 second left in the second quarter, Zach LaVine intercepted a pass and finished with a breakaway dunk to put Minnesota up 59-53.

The Numbers Game

Minnesota shot 20-for-25 (80 percent) from the free throw line, while Denver finished 18-for-25 (72 percent).

The Nuggets bench outscored the Wolves bench 35-23.

Denver had 58 points in the paint to Minnesota’s 48 in the game.

Player of the Game

For Minnesota, Karl-Anthony Towns was Thursday night’s Player of the Game. He finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds in just over 37 minutes played.

Towns shot 11-for-19 from the field, including 2-for-4 from three, and was 8-for-10 from the free throw line.

Up Next

The Wolves will play the Oklahoma City Thunder at 5 p.m. Saturday in the first game of a three-game road trip. It will be the first matchup between the two teams this season.