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Although there was some up-and-down play in the first half, the Nuggets stepped on the throat of the Timberwolves in the third quarter with a 21-8 run to effectively put the game away. The Nuggets have won 13 straight at home, 8 straight overall, and are 20 games over .500.
Even with officials that couldn't find the definition of an offensive foul with both hands on a rulebook, Ty Lawson was determined not to let the Nuggets suffer another embarrassing defeat to the Timberwolves. Ty has been an utter monster for the last few months, and that slow-burning fuse has finally reached the dynamite. Lawson tied his season high and career high of 32 points (formerly, a losing effort at Atlanta) on 12-17 shooting, including going perfect from 3 and from the charity stripe. Although he didn't have a great night distributing the ball with only 3 assists, Ty's relentless drive and unconscious shooting was exactly what the Nuggets needed on a night where the rest of the team couldn't seem to find any rhythm.
Lacking Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko and a smattering of other bench trash, the Timberwolves somehow have that certain je nais se quoi that let them get in the head of the Nuggets early. Ricky Rubio lived up to his reputation as one of the most dynamic passers in the NBA, but the combined masonry of tiny leprechaun Luke Ridnour and Alexy Shved (4-14) doomed a promising start by the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves were down just 1 at the half, but had the look of a team with too many bench players who've played too many minutes above their ability level. After a decent start, things got chippy for diminutive J.J. Barea, who ended up scoring 15 points off the bench but on 14 shots. He couldn't find a way through the Nuggets excellent paint defense, and seemed to believe he was fouled on every drive. Unlike the Carmelo Anthony-era Nuggets that tended to build big first half leads and relinquish them in the third and fourth quarters, this team deserves credit for the way it's been putting teams away when it needs to.
There was a funny/exasperating moment in the third when, after an egregiously bad foul call was called on Ty Lawson due to Rubio flopping like his legs were gored by a bull, George Karl melted down. He was off his seat and onto the hardwood, screaming at Tony Brown, David Jones and Kevin Scott. Chad Iske and other Nuggets assistant coaches had to restrain Karl, who very nearly got thrown out of the game (and received a technical for his fury). It was actually nice to see Karl up off the floor in defense of Lawson, who is hacked and hammered without a call more often on his drives than perhaps any other PG in the NBA. Here's a video of Karl's rage:
Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala all had pretty sub-par games offensively, but their defensive effort was superlative. On the whole, the angry hornets of the Nuggets defense frustrated the Timberwolves into 21 turnovers, erasing the Timberwolves efforts to the tune of 13 steals and 8 blocks. Corey Brewer leaked out all night against a sluggish Timberwolves transition defense and scored 15 points to lead the bench with 2 assists and 2 steals. He missed both of his threes, but what else is new?
8 wins in a row have done a lot to keep this Nuggets team in the hunt for home court advantage. Even though the Grizzlies some how keep winning, damnit, the Nuggets continue to put distance between themselves and the lower seeds and put more pressure on the Clippers and Grizz to keep winning. With the vast majority of the difficult stretches out of the way for the Nuggets - and many more tough games for the Clippers and Grizzlies ahead - I'll bet that they won't be able to keep pace with a Nuggets squad that is now 28-3 at the Pepsi Center. Next up is a decimated Phoenix Suns team on Monday, and then (one of the) remaining big enchiladas on Wednesday: the return of Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.
I expect the Nuggets to have won 10 in a row by Thursday night.