Tonight, I witnessed one of the stupidest plays of the season for Minnesota, it came in the final seconds of overtime...but we'll get to that in just a bit.
This one was probably one of the most physical matchups of the season, thus far for Minnesota. Despite Denver playing without Nene Hilario, Danilo Gallinari & Rudy Fernandez, then losing Ty Lawson in the second quarter with a sprained ankle and then in the third quarter losing Andre Miller who was "T'd" up and then ejected. Arron Afflalo also rolled his ankle but played through it. There's no doubt the Nuggets are looking forward to the all-star break to get healthy.
The Wolves got off to a hot start, accumulating a 14-point lead at one point in the first half before the Nuggets came storming back to put themselves up by five at the half; 51-46.
Pekovic started off hot and had 7pts & 7rebs (6orebs), 1ast & 1blk. He didn't play too long in the second quarter, however as he went down with a sprained ankle and didn't return. That was a big loss for Minnesota. Milicic wasn't with the team because of a stomach muscle injury, so Brad Miller started the second half, but for the majority of the rest of the game Kevin Love played center. With Pek out, that left the Wolves without the big guy down low taking up space, which allowed for a guy like Kenneth Faried to crash the boards and get his team extra buckets on offense and limit second chance points for Minnesota. Kevin Love is one of, if not the best, rebounder in the NBA, but tonight he was just outhustled and outmuscled by Faried & the Nuggs.
Watching Faried, he's a physical player, but in all the wrong ways, not really a dirty player, but I'm not sure how else to explain it. I counted at least seven fouls on him where he was throwing guys like Love or Martell to the floor or climbing up guys' back, which should have been clear over the back fouls. I won't argue too much though, Minnesota got a lot of calls to go their way.
After the Nuggets fought back after they got down 30-18 in the first quarter, it was a back-and-forth affair between these two. The most the Nuggets pushed the lead to was 10pts. By the end of three quarters, Denver was up 76-73, heading into the final quarter.
With 1:50 left in the fourth the Wolves were up 93-90, but 20 seconds later a three from Al Harrington (3 of his 31 on the night) tied the game at 93. With 17 seconds to play, it was Nuggets ball. They decided to play for the last shot. Arron Afflalo missed a 17ft. jumper at the buzzer and for the second night in a row the Nuggets were heading to overtime.
Overtime went scoreless for each team, until Al Harrington hit a fallaway two-point jumper with 1:55 to play. Rubio responded on the next possession on a driving layup, to tie the game once again; 95-all. A few empty trips for each team followed, but with 33.7 seconds to play Afflalo hit a layup over Luke Ridnour to put his team up two. At the other end on an inbound-play, the Wolves executed a VERY effective play that left Ridnour with a wide-open layup...that he missed! But, don't worry that isn't the stupid play I refer to before...unfortunately, it gets worse. With 17 seconds to play Brewer got the inbound and was fouled, he made two free throws to put Denver up 99-95 with just 16.6 seconds to play. Love drove the lane on the next play and was fouled by Harrington and hit two free throws to put the Wolves down just two, again. Afflalo went to the line again after a foul on the inbound, made another two to make it 97-101 with 13.6 seconds to play, Minnesota took a timeout. Out of the timeout, Love threw up a three that missed, Julyan Stone was then fouled and sent to the line with 8.8 seconds to go. He made 1 of 2 free throws to give Denver a five-point lead. Luke Ridnour drove the lane on the next play and fell flat on his face, the refs called a foul and he hit two free throws at the line to cut the lead to just three with 4.9 seconds to play. Denver took a timeout and out of the timeout came the Wolves' stupidest play of the season. Webster stole the inbound pass and dribbled up court, instead of pulling up and shooting a three to tie the game as the clock ticked, Webster drove the lane and dunked it. That left the Wolves down just one, but just 1.3 seconds to play. Denver inbounded and was fouled, but there was then just 0.5 seconds to play. Corey Brewer went to the line and sealed the win with 1 of 2 at the line. A heave at the buzzer by Webster missed and the Wolves lost their only overtime game they've played this season.
That play by Webster was definitely a mistake and Martell acknowledged that on his Twitter account following the game: "To everyone out there I feel your pain. I will learn from this. All of your thoughts and opinions are appreciated!!! All I can do is move on." Webster also told reporters after the game that he should have pulled up for the three, but was trying to go to the rim, draw the foul and get a three-point play. But definitely acknowledged he should've shot the three. Also added after the game to reporters: "I don't know if it was a mental thing, like a shot (a three) before and didn't knock it down." Ridnour is definitely lucky, though. Because of the play by Webster--no one remembers his blown layup!
For Minnesota, Love had 22pts, 13rebs, 4ast, 2stls, 1blk, shot 7-22 FG, 1-4 3PT, 7-7 FT in 48 min. However when the Wolves needed another one of his clutch performances in the fourth quarter to close out the game he had just 6pts, then in overtime he had another chance to be the hero, but scored just 2pts on free throws. Beasley added 17pts, 7rebs, 1ast on 7-16 FG, 2-3 3PT in 33 minutes off the bench. Rubio had 16pts, 5rebs, 5ast, 3stls, 5-16 FG, 2-4 3PT, 4-4 FT in 40 minutes. Nikola had that great first quarter and had he not gone down in that first quarter he would've had another double-double and would've changed how the game played out in the paint.
For Denver, Al Harrington led the charge. Al had 31pts, 9rebs, 2ast, 1stl, 14-29 FG, 3-9 3PT, in 40 minutes off the bench. Arron Afflalo had 20pts, 5rebs, 3ast, 1blk, 6-18 FG, 8-10 FT in 44 minutes. Kenneth Faried had a great game as well, finishing with 10pts, 14rebs, 2stls, 3blks, 4-4 FG, 2-2 FT in 36 minutes--starting at power forward in place of the injured Nene.
The Timberwolves finished with 15 turnovers leading to 18 Denver points. But the real story was Denver's advantage on the boards and in the paint. The Nuggets out-rebounded Minnesota 57-50 and in the paint with a +16; 52-36.
All in all, the Wolves just got out-muscled & out-hustled in this one. The Nuggets just looked to want it more...that and of course the Wolves' inability to execute their offense in the fourth and in overtime.
That's all for now. The Wolves' next game is Wednesday vs. the Utah Jazz--before they go on All-Star break. Stay tuned for a preview of that one tomorrow. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!