The Nuggets won their eleventh straight game over the Timberwolves 114-103, dominating their division rival in the fourth quarter.
Nikola Jokic lead the way for the Nuggets as per usual, putting up 31 points and 14 rebounds as he draws near to his coronation as the league MVP. The Nuggets got big games from Markus Howard (15 points) and Vlatko Cancar (14 points), as the team found a way to overcome Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Nuggets started the game off well, attacking the offensive glass to get a bunch of second chance points. Jokic scored eight quick points off a couple offensive boards, while former Nuggets forward Jarred Vanderbilt picked up a couple baskets with some athletic finishes at the rim. Facu Campazzo got on the scoreboard with a transition basket, getting behind the defense to give the Nuggets the lead at 16-15. Aaron Gordon knocked in a 3-pointer, taking advantage of the Timberwolves trying to pack the paint and protect the rim.
After Shaq Harrison got a layup, Austin Rivers got his defender to fly past with a pump fake, then side-stepped into a 3-pointer. Jokic made his seventh shot shortly after a timeout, but Jaden McDaniels countered with a midrange jumper on the opposite end. Jokic attacked Naz Reid on the other end, powering into a lefty hook shot in the paint for another basket. The reserves took over in the final minutes, with Paul Millsap finding Vlatko Cancar for a 3-pointer to put the Nuggets up by nine points at the end of the first quarter.
The Nuggets second unit, well, they struggled to score to start the quarter, missing their first five shots and committing a turnover. They were pretty strong defensively though, and finally broke through with a Paul Millsap coast-to-coast, with the veteran big making the free throw that he earned too. D’Angelo Russell checked in, and immediately scored for Minnesota, but Markus Howard knocked in a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to counter. Timberwolves head coach got a little hot after Millsap found Cancar on a nice cut, and called timeout, so the Nuggets went immediately back to that combo after the timeout for another bucket.
Cancar tried a 3-pointer, but came up short, and poor Markus Howard was called for defensive three seconds on the other end, with Karl-Anthony Towns making the technical free throw. Towns tried a Jokic over-the-head pass, and Millsap easily stole it, with Howard rewarding the big fella on the other end in transition for a layup. The refs decided to review a foul by Jokic on Towns, but kept it as a common foul, and Towns missed both his shots. Howard knocked in another 3-pointer, getting a nice shot off a screen and dish by Jokic. The diminutive guard got another basket, scoring in transition at the rim, his third make on the same number of attempts in the game. McGee got a blocked shot, but the Nuggets fumbled the ball around, which resulted in an Anthony Edwards dunk. Minnesota went to a 2-3 zone, but Jokic got into the middle of the paint and got to the free throw line. The Nuggets had a nice finish to the quarter, finding success on offense and defense to take a 63-52 lead at halftime.
The Nuggets got some offense from Aaron Gordon to start the second half, with some free throws and a nice layup through traffic. Jokic hit the 20-point mark with a free throw range jumpshot, then followed it up with a block of Naz Reid and another bucket on the other end. Towns tried drawing a foul against Jokic off the dribble, but wound up taking like four or five steps and got whistled for traveling, which got him all bothered. Denver went on a small run to go back up double digits, with Cancar hitting a 3-pointer after the defense abandoned him in the corner. Jokic’s work-out buddy got to the free throw line in transition, after Shaq Harrison got a steal on defense, and split the pair. Jordan McLaughlin started causing Denver trouble, getting a layup and then drawing an offensive foul for a Nuggets turnover. Millsap laser-beamed a pass in transition to Green, who finished with a dunk over a surprised Edwards. Towns hit a 3-pointer for the last basket of the quarter, cutting the Nuggets lead to just 95-92.
Millsap helped lead the second unit to start the fourth, getting some hustle steals and making plays. Cancar and Howard both got 3-pointers, and then Cancar took an Edwards elbow to the pearls, drawing an offensive foul. Millsap drew a technical foul too a few possessions later, upset after he drove and didn’t get a whistle after Russell swiped down across his face. Campazzo hit a big three to help get Denver over the 100 point mark, and then Howard hit a deep 3-pointer too.
Jokic checked back in and started doing MVP things, getting a steal one-on-one against Towns and then hitting a Sombor Shuffle over him while getting fouled. Towns committed another really indefensible foul, complaining for getting whistled for draping his arm across Jokic’s arms as he tried to receive a pass. Things kept getting chippy, with Towns just absolutely banging into Jokic on both ends of the court. Austin Rivers hit an absolutely clutch 3-pointer with about 90 seconds left, putting Denver up by 12 and clinching the game for the good guys.