Timberwolves vs. Nuggets recap: Balanced Scoring Helps Nuggets Survive J.J. Barea, Timberwolves

Doug Pensinger

Known Nuggets assassin J.J. Barea did his thing, and the Nuggets squandered a late lead but ultimately held on to move to .500 for the first time under rookie head coach Brian Shaw.

Phew. After seemingly being on cruise control for most of the 4th quarter, the Nuggets decided to make it interesting for the national audience. Anyone who has watched a Nuggets game in the last 10 years knows they are always capable of letting teams get back in it. The George Karl teams usually found ways to win, and it's important that Brian Shaw's team shows they are capable of it as well. Fortunately, they made enough plays down the stretch tonight to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-113 and in the process claim their best win of the season.

The Nuggets emerging depth really helped them out tonight. Seven Nuggets scored in double figures, and another four had five or more. All 11 players that cracked the rotation played at least 10 minutes. Brian Shaw just sent waves of fresh legs at the Timberwolves, who only played eight players and suffered a scoreless night from Ricky Rubio.

Things started out great for the home team. The Nuggets shot out to a 35-26 lead after a dominant first quarter that featured 8 offensive rebounds and 8 turnovers from the Timberwolves. As they are wont to do, however, the Nugs promptly blew said lead in the second quarter as they reverted to the bad offense, no defense abomination from the beginning of the season. They shot 9-26 and forced only 3 turnovers. J.J. Barea came in and carved up Nate Robinson, scoring 11 points in 10 minutes, and the Nuggets trailed at the half 60-56.

They brought their swagger back in the third quarter, though. It looked like the Nuggets of old as they were driving and attacking the paint with purpose. Evan Fournier and Jordan Hamilton came in and played extremely solid. Hamilton knocked a three down and almost had another. He also rebounded well and led a nice fast break. Fournier played good defense and had a smooth left-handed drive. He continues to make a case to start over Randy Foye, who struggled again tonight. At the end of the third, Nuggets-slayer Barea re-entered the game and hit a fadeaway rim-rattling toilet bowl shot to cut the lead to five going into the fourth quarter.

A lineup of Fournier, Robinson, Darrell Arthur, Andre Miller, and Timofey Mozgov began the fourth. It was actually fairly effective. Arthur showed nice touch on his jumper again and had a strong spin move to the basket, something I hadn't seen from him yet this season. Miller also looked spry in the fourth, hitting his sixth(!) three of the season, scoring on a tough layup, and schooling Rubio with a nasty crossover that he just missed the layup on. Luckily, Faried was there to flush it down. And Wilson Chandler looks like he has shaken most of the rust off. His third baseline three-pointer (which has looked to be money these first two games back) of the night helped stem a Wolves run.

Up 9 points with 1:15 to play, the Nuggets managed to make it a nail-biter. The Wolves cut the lead to two on a deep three from Kevin Love with 18 seconds left to go. Chandler was fouled on the inbounds. Despite ESPN announcer Jon Barry trying to jinx him by constantly talking about missing free throws, Chandler made his first one. He missed the second, but Miller grabbed a huge offensive rebound. Miller made one of two, and then Faried decided he had enough of the shenanigans and blocked the last two shots for the Wolves. Game over.

Overall, this is a huge win for the Nuggets. They are starting to demonstrate that those shoveling dirt on them may have been doing it prematurely. It's a confidence-booster as they head to Houston tomorrow to try to climb over .500 for the first time in Shaw's brief career.

Game Observations -

- Ty Lawson outplayed Rubio, outscoring him 14-0 and almost matching Rubio's 12 assists with 10 of his own. Both were somewhat careless with the ball; Lawson had 6 turnovers and Rubio had 5.

- Lawson was unable to finish the game after getting poked in the eye by his old buddy Corey Brewer. Here's hoping he'll be okay for the game tomorrow.

- Speaking of Brewer, he was his usual disruptive self. The Nuggets seemed wise to his tricks, though, and were able to stop him from leaking out every time on the fast break. He did have five quick points near the end of the game to help the Wolves get back in it.

- Chandler led the Nuggets in scoring with 19, and Faried had his third straight double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

- Mozgov played decently following his monster game against the Lakers, scoring 10 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Mozzy held his own against Nikola Pekovic, who had 14 and 6, respectively.

- Barea was easily Minnesota's best player on the night, scoring on drive after drive. He finished with 21 points on 10-14 shooting.

- Kevin Love had a fairly quiet 28 points, and he wasn't much of a factor until the fourth quarter. He shot 2-7 from deep, and the Nuggets did a good job of holding him to "only" 10 rebounds.

- Kevin Martin had 27 points but somehow only shot 2-7 from three-point range. He had been shooting over 50% on threes coming into the game.

- Don't know if this game does much to improve the Nuggets' standing in the eyes of the national media, but it's a start.

- Miller is now 6-8 on three's for the season. Could he be pulling a Jason Kidd by developing a three-point shot late in his career? Stay tuned...

Opposition's take: Canis Hoopus



Next 5 Games

@ Houston Sat 11/16 6:00 PM MST
@ Oklahoma City Mon 11/18 6:00 PM MST
Chicago Thu 11/21 8:30 PM MST
Dallas Sat 11/23 7:00 PM MST
@ Dallas Mon 11/25 6:30 PM MST

Last 5 Games

Minnesota Fri 11/15 W 117 - 113
Los Angeles Lakers Wed 11/13 W 111 - 99
@ Utah Mon 11/11 W 100 - 81
@ Phoenix Fri 11/08 L 103 - 114
Atlanta Thu 11/07 W 109 - 107


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