The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Denver Nuggets on Monday, ending an important streak of road games on a high note.
The Nuggets entered the game losers of 14 of their previous 20 games, but Ty Lawson made his return after missing nearly a month — Denver is an Eastern Conference team without him. The Wolves, on the other hand, entered riding a train of recent success from destination to destination along the West coast. The game, yet again, was another must win for Rick Adelman and his pack of pups.
The route was on early, or so it seemed, as the Wolves scored 40 first quarter points and led the Nuggets by 15 after the opening frame. A casual 12 point, 8 rebound quarter for Kevin Love laid the foundation for what seemed as if it were going to be a laugher. The second unit, led as always by J.J. Barea also seemed to think little about the outcome, allowing the Nuggets to keep the deficit to a manageable number. Randy Foye, who played all but two minutes during the first half, carried Denver by scoring 10 points during quarter number two. At halftime the Wolves led by 17.
First Half Notes
- Kevin Love — 16 points, 14 rebound. Wowza. Has — relatively — struggled from the field lately, and that continued (5 of 12 FT, 1 of 4 3PT FG), but converted all five of his free-throw attempts — free points are a good thing
- Kevin Martin — 12 points (3 of 7 FG, 0 for 4 3PT FG)
- J.J. Barea — 11 points, 3 assists. Played more minutes during the first half than Ricky Rubio.
- Randy Foye — 17 points (6 of 12 FG, 3 of 5 3PT FG)
The return of Lawson, albeit the expectations of an optimistic Nuggets fan may have higher, hadn’t appeared to be anything that was going help Denver overcome the large deficit during the second half. Lawson scored two points, both earned at the FT line, missed three shot attempts and negated the three assists he did record with the same amount of turnovers. Back in January, a Star Tribune column listed Rubio as one of the Wolves — many — recent draft mistakes, citing Lawson as a player the franchise ‘missed’ on who would have made a difference earlier in the year. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the aforementioned column appeared to look sensical on this particular Monday evening.
Combined, the Wolves and Nuggets scored a walloping 66 points during the third quarter. Led by Lawson, who had been silent most of the way until that point, the Nuggets chipped a mere two points away from the halftime deficit. The short, exciting score-first point guard was efficient at getting good looks at the rim — Lawson also matched his assist total from the first half (3). For the Good Guys, Love added 11 more to game-leading point total and Nikola Pekovic scored seven points in as many minutes to help sustain the lead.
Yes, this one receives it’s own bold+italic label. The final period, Monday, lasted 43 minutes and spotlighted another example of the Wolves inability to finish games down the stretch. Entering the quarter with a 17 point lead, which grew to as high as 21, things started getting interesting as time went along. Adelman plugged Rubio back into the game with a little over 7:00 minutes to play, implementing the Barea-Rubio backcourt most of us are partial to seeing if Martin isn’t on the floor. Here’s how those two performed from the 7:40 second mark (when Rubio checked in) until Rubio checked out (3:25).
- 7:02 — Rubio grabs a rebound, Pekovic is fouled on the following possession — two points for the Wolves.
- 6:40 — Shabazz Muhammad collects a rebound, outlets to Barea, who quickly commits and offensive foul resulting in a turnover.
- 6:22 — Muhammad, again, attains a rebound.
- 6:07 — Rubio is called for traveling, with no dispute, and chalks up another turnover.
- 5:00 — Rubio called for a shooting foul
- 3:58 — Barea misses a 15ft turnaround jumper, with the shot clock winding down, that resulted in turnover.
- 3:32 — Rubio’s pass stolen by Kenneth Faried.
- 3:25 — Timeout is called by Adelman, Martin substitutes in for Rubio.
So, if you’re not keeping track at home, during this brief stretch Rubio and Barea managed to turn the ball over four turnovers. What had once been 21 point lead had now been cut to only 10.
Denver initiated the foul-game shortly after the substitution that placed Martin into the game for Rubio. Four Denver three-pointers, some free-throws, a made basket and Kevin Martin stood at the line with five seconds to play in the game — the lead had dissipated to two points. He makes both FT’s and the game ends; Wolves win — 132-128.
“A Win is a Win” — many people, somewhere
- Kevin Love — 33 points, 10 of 21 FG’s, 11 of 13 on FT’s.
- Kevin Martin — 22 points, 16 of 17 FT’s — made 8 of 8 within’ the final 30 seconds of the game.
- Ty Lawson — 31 points, 29 of them coming in the second half.