The Minnesota Timberwolves (23-26) returned to the Target Center for Sunday’s game against the Denver Nuggets (26-22) following a grueling 12-day, 7-game road trip. Denver entered the game tied for the last playoff spot in the Western Division, with the Wolves 3-1/2 games behind. The Pups lost their previous game 149-140 in double overtime to the Oklahoma Thunder in one of the greatest games in the Timberwolves’ history. Kevin Love’s 51 points in that game were the most in franchise history. His 7 three pointers were also a career high. It was the first game in the NBA in 28 years that three players had scored 40 or more points in a game, with Russell Westbrook scoring 45 points and Kevin Durant 40 points for the Thunder.
Denver entered the game first in the NBA in scoring, assists and fast-break points. Denver also entered the game with two players with league-leading tattoos, Wilson Chandler and Chris (“The Birdman”) Anderson, who is beginning to resemble a human comic book page. The Pups were shorthanded at the guard position again, as JJ Barea was determined to be unable to play due to a quad contusion. Barea had been brilliant in a 25 points, 14 assists, and10 rebounds effort against the Thunder. Luke Ridnour was also uncertain due to a groin strain.
Any doubts about Ridnour’s effectiveness didn’t last long. Ridnour was the story of the first quarter, shooting 5 of 5 on field goals and scoring 12 points. Denver gained an early 11-5 lead which was overcome by the Pups’ 19-2 run. Denver did not score a field goal for 5-1/2 minutes during the quarter. The Pups lead 33-20 after the first quarter, with Derrick Williams adding 7 points and K-Love scoring 7 points and grabbing 5 rebounds.
The Pups began the second quarter on an 11-0 run as Denver went four minutes without a point. The Wolves continued their balanced scoring, high-energy and shot 52% as a team for the half. The Pups hit the 50 point mark with 5 minutes to play on their way to a 68-43 halftime lead. The 68 point first-half output was a season high for the Pups. The Wolves got 8 second quarter points from Anthony Tolliver, 7 from Michael Beasley and 7 from Wayne Ellington. Luke Ridnour continued his great play in the quarter. Pop-a-Shot added 4 points during the quarter for a first-half total of 17 on seven of seven shooting. K-Love had 13 points and 12 rebounds at halftime. The Pups committed only four turnovers in the half.
The Pups lost some of their offensive magic and defensive intensity in the third quarter as Denver outscored Minnesota 32-25 to trail 93-75 after three. The Nuggets’ athleticism and floor-running narrowed the Pups’ lead to as little as16 points, as the Nuggets showed how fast they can score points. Kevin Love led the Wolves in the third quarter with 12 points and 7 rebounds, ending the quarter with 25 points and 19 rebounds.
The Wolves did what they needed to do during the fourth quarter to win the game 117-100. Remarkably, Denver outscored the Pups 64-38 in the paint and 29-2 on fast-break points for the game. However, the Nuggets committed 17 turnovers compared to only 9 for the Pups, and shot only 3 of 15 on threes compared to 12 of 35 for the Pups. The Wolves’ starters outscored the Nuggets’ starters 77-54. K-Love led the Wolves with 30 points and 21 rebounds, adding 4 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks. This was K-Love’s third 30/20 game of the season. Luke Ridnour added 25 points and 6 assists in a gutsy effort, with Wayne Ellington adding 17 points off the bench. Malcolm Lee scored his first NBA basket and added three assists. Denver was led by Kenneth Faried with 17 points, mostly on jams, and Andre Miller scored 14 points off the bench. This was a nice win for the Pups before an appreciative capacity Target Center crowd after a long road trip against very difficult competition. The Wolves resume play on the road Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Photo Credits: Alan Spearman – Associated Press