Decent play and effort from the Denver Nuggets to start the quarter, and the Nugs get out to a 10-5 lead. The rebounds and quick drives are effective, but still quickly shuttled aside. Some inspired defensive play from Wilson Chandler, with a terrific block and steal by the six minute mark.
Once Denver abandons taking the ball down low, they keep leaving the door open for Minnesota with missed jump shot after missed jump shot, and the game stays close, with the Timberwolves taking their first lead at the five minute mark. The lead switched back and forth from there throughout the quarter, with Denver giving up some pretty easy looks at the basket on the defensive end, and Alonzo Gee and Timofey Mozgov both looking like they need to warm their hands up a bit on a snowy Colorado night, with some flubbed catches, shots, and boards by both).
Denver forces a couple of bad offensive series to end the quarter, with a turnover and shot clock violation for the Wolves in their last two plays. Ty Lawson plays all 12 minutes of the first quarter and misses a bunny to put the Nuggets up at quarter's close. Nuggets down 27-26.
Some ugly ball to start out the first quarter, with silly turnovers by both sides. Chandler comes back into the game and nails a three to pull Denver back to even. The Nuggets look to want to stay out of the lane, shooting 3 more (missed) three pointers in a row after that, even though the Wolves struggle down low. Once Kenneth Faried comes back into the game, he and Jusuf Nurkic begin working the paint again, and Denver pulls even yet again at 31 apiece at the 8:30 mark.
With all the 3-point misses, Altitude puts up a depressing graphic, showing the Nuggets rank of 29th in 3-ball makes. Woof. Thankfully, the combination of Faried and Nurkic start turning some of those missed shots into rebounds and points, and Denver continues to trade the lead with Minny. Several of the Timberwolves players look gassed early, and you have to hope that they'll tire by the fourth quarter, as the Nuggets don't seem to be able to put any distance between themselves and the struggling Wolves in the first half.
Mozgov returns at the six minute mark, and starts crashing the boards as well, and his two free throws giving the Nuggets a three point lead. Faried keeps up his productive habits, and has a double-double (11 points and 11 boards) by the 4:00 minute mark of the first half. Let's hope he can keep it up in the second half, as he's had a ton of first-shot misses to clean up by the rest of the squad (especially Arron Afflalo, who goes in at the half one for seven from the floor). Suddenly, Faried is cleaning up boards on both ends, the Nuggets are spreading the floor a bit better, and are finally able to put that teensy bit of breathing room into the equation. A couple of quick scores each, and the Nuggets go into the locker room up 53-47.
Slowly... ever so slowly, the Nuggets start to stretch their lead with pressure on both ends of the floor. It's still not gorgeous, but Denver has its first double digit lead at the 7:00 mark, and the Wolves are starting to look a little gassed. Manimal gathers his 18th board at the six minute mark, and if the Nuggets could start making the shots closer in to the basket, this game would get out of hand quickly for the good guys.
Random wondering: I'm admittedly a Scott Hastings fan, and he's a serious Nuggets homer. That said, he's always got such intelligent things to say about things that could help the Denver bigs (especially Mozzie and Nurkic), I cannot help but wonder why the Nuggets haven't approached him about the same.
The last four minutes of the quarter, the pendulum swings a bit back towards the Wolves, with more spotty shooting from the Nuggets outside shooters. With two and a half minutes left in the third, the Nuggets are shooting 20% from beyond the arc, and just cracked 40% in total from the field with a make. A couple of missed threes are rescued by a surprising block from J.J. Hickson, and still Minnesota comes back to shrink the Nuggets lead to five by quarter's end. 79-74 good guys. Still anybody's game.
A turnover, two Wolves buckets, and a foul later, and we have ourselves a tie ball game. Two more quick turnovers, and things get disconcerting. The bench unit is still struggling to create points, and the only starter in the game with them (Afflalo) is struggling himself tonight.
Ty Lawson logs back in with nine minutes left in the game, and you have think his 30 minutes will be 39 by game's end. Lawson does replace AAA, so Shaw stays tiny in the backcourt for the time being, with Nate Robinson staying in the game. Between NateRob's zero points, and Afflalo's six, you were hoping for more production from the backcourt beyond Lawson. Neither Gary Harris or Erick Green has enetered the game at this point, and in a close one, it seems a safe bet they'll be seated for the evening.
Faried re-enters the game at the eight minute mark, and gets right back to his old tricks, flushing a rebound to re-tie the game at 84. Denver is still struggling to get the ball to drop, and you can see the Timberwolves hopes growing by the minute, as they have lost their last six in a row. Stiffs writer Chris Meirose sent a note from the game tonight comparing the quiet Denver crowd to church, and the broadcast shows the same.
Denver finally puts together a bit of a scoring run, and at the four minute mark, Ty's two free throws give the Nuggets back the lead at 92-91. Afflalo finally hits a shot or two, and Mozgov has a tough couple of series against Gorgui Dieng, giving the lead back. Some tense moments to close it out, and Ty proved his worth with some key assists, rebounds and scores in the final two minutes. That said, the Timberwolves had a chance to tie it with two free throws and 19 seconds left in the game. Fortunately, Dieng only made one of two, and Minnesota was forced to foul. Though Afflalo struggled from the floor, he sank both of those free throws, and a turnover by Minnesota on some tough Faried D (yes, I said tough Faried D) produced a turnover to seal the deal. The last 10 seconds took far too long in traded foul shots, but Denver hangs in to steal one away in a 106-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. More to come in the full recap.
What did you see tonight, Nuggets Nation?