J.J. Barea scored 12 of his 17 points and Luke Ridnour added 9 of his 14 in the fourth quarter as the Minnesota Timberwolves were able to hand the Denver Nuggets their second home loss of the season (now 10-2). They also snapped Denver's 8-game home winning streak with that narrow four-point 101-97 victory.
Midway through the third quarter, it looked as though the Wolves' 'wheels' were again falling off as we began to see mirrored images of Wednesday night in Utah. The Wolves bounced back in the second half of that third quarter as they continued to attack Denver's interior D, draw fouls and convert at the free throw line. The Nuggets pushed the lead to 10 at one point in the third quarter, but at the end of the third the Wolves were down just one point (69-70) heading into the fourth.
Another big spark was the loss of Kevin Love. Love was hit on the hand during that third quarter and went straight to the locker room with trainer Gregg Farnam holding the hand as they walked down the tunnel. It was his right hand, his shooting hand and the same one he broke earlier this summer. X-rays were taken in the locker room, which came back normal and he's currently diagnosed with a right finger sprain. He returned to the bench in the fourth quarter and was 'questionable' to return for the remainder of the game--which he didn't.
Luke Ridnour said after tonight's game, that Kevin Love going down increased the TWolves' sense of urgency in this one.
I think that was certainly part of it and something you could definitely see, however the Wolves also, simply hit their shots. Unlike last night in Utah when the Wolves couldn't buy the bucket and finished with a season-low 34.5% field goal percentage, guys like J.J. & Luke hit their shots in the final period to walk away with the win in this one.
The Wolves had a few key possessions in a row, that helped them pull away late in this one. The first was a Luke Ridnour three with just over 2:30 to play on a nice find from J.J. Barea. The Wolves got a defensive stop and took a timeout (holding a 94-91 lead). Out of the timeout, J.J. got the ball to Dante in the high post and he tossed it right back to J.J. who hit another three-pointer to put the Wolves up six (97-91). Andre Miller answered with a bucket on the other end to cut the lead to four with 1:47 to play. Pek missed a shot on the next possession, but Dante was able to coral the offensive rebound, J.J. Barea drove the lane and was able to convert the second chance point to put the Wolves back up six. Those three offensive sets late, sealed the Wolves victory in this one.
Before I get to the top performers, there is something I feel I need to address. Reading through some comments on Twitter after tonight's game, I found A LOT of negative tweets about Kevin Love. Ultimately what they all were saying was along the lines of: The Wolves are clearly better without Kevin Love as evidenced by tonight's win over the Nuggets--time to trade him while he still has value. If you are a TWolves fan who feels this way, I have serious doubts you know much about the game of basketball and Kevin Love's value to this basketball squad. Clearly he's nowhere near 100% and his shot has been absolutely putrid. However, if you think this TWolves team is going to have any chance of making the playoffs without him, you're delirious.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
J.J. & Shved has almost identical stat lines, but it was J.J.'s late game heroics that led the Wolves to the win. Kirilenko had a solid all-around game as well as all 3 of Minnesota's blocks in this one.
The Nuggets were led by Kosta Koufos with 16pts. He actually had a pretty good game, but when your best player is Kosta Koufos in a game, I have serious reservations that you'll be the victor. Lawson was a gametime decision and still didn't start, but play the majority of the fourth quarter, where he scored 12 of his 16 points, but it just wasn't enough. In his place started Andre Miller for the second consecutive game. In Miller's second consecutive start he got his second straight double-double (had 12pts, 12ast vs. the Clippers on Tuesday). He found his teammates for easy looks and had a couple nice layups and mid-range shots go down. He did miss a three-pointer late in the game that would've cut the lead to one point.
I almost didn't add Luke or Iguodala to the list above, but decided that although they both did struggle in certain areas tonight, they also excelled in others. Ridnour began the game 1-for-7 from the field, but was able to finish 5-7 the rest of the way and had 9 of his 14 points come in the final quarter. He executed when it mattered most and was a BIG part of this W. AI had a bad night shooting the ball from absolutely everywhere. 6-16 from the field, 1-5 from three and 1-7 from the line. In a game where you lose by just four points, those 6 points Iggy left at the line REALLY hurt. That being said, he did grab seven rebounds, dish six assists and come up with two steals. Iguodala was also a big part of Alexey's five turnovers (as was Andre Miller). Both of those players were very physical with Alexey in the backcourt, which is clearly something that he struggles mightily with at this point in his career (it should get better as Alexey, hopefully adds strength and muscle to his game in the years to come).
MISC. STATS: Dante Cunningham tied a season-high with his two made free throws, he also set a new season-high with 4 offensive rebounds and also set a new season-high and career-high with his four assists.......Alexey Shved tied a season/career-high with his 2 offensive rebounds......Andre Miller scored the 15,000th point of his career tonight with a mid-range jumper in the first quarter, he's just the eighth player to do so, while also compiling over 7,500 assists.......
The team stats...
KEY STATS: Both teams shot the ball well from the field and relatively well from deep. The TWolves, who have certainly been known to struggle from the line this season had an 'okay' night from the line, however those nine missed free throws were counteracted by Denver, who also left nine points at the line (thanks in large part to 6 misses from Iguodala). The TWolves came into tonight's game as the 4th-best rebounding team in the League (45.8), while Denver came into tonight's game as the #1 rebounding team in the League (46.3)--clearly not that big a difference. However, there was quite a difference in tonight's totals as the TWolves out-rebounded the #1 team with a +13, holding the Nuggets to 7 rebounds below their season average. Kevin Love grabbed 17 on the night, despite playing just 24 minutes and the Nuggets' leading rebounder: Faried with 10.2 a game, had 0 at halftime and finished with 6 on the night, mostly in the fourth, while Love watched from the bench. You can see the Nuggets held advantages in fast break points with a +11, points in the paint: +10 and forced 15 TWolves turnovers that they turned into 21 points. Based off all that and the fact the Nuggets shot over 46% from the field on the night, if you were just looking at the Nugget stats, you'd probably assume they won this one. However that advantage on the glass (those 17 offensive rebounds create a lot of second chance point opportunities), coupled with the ten extra points they scored at the free throw line, were ultimately the deciding factors in this one.
MISC. STATS: Minnesota's two steals ties a season-low......The Nuggets' 55% from the line and 8 turnovers are both the second lowest numbers for a TWolves opponent this season......
The Timberwolves will be back in action on Saturday as they return to the Target Center to face the Portland Trailblazers. We'll have a full gameday preview of that one before tipoff, as always thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
***Also, to any readers out there, I wanted to ask one question--I'm hoping you'll respond in the comment section below. I'm just curious if you have any current TWolves player that you don't like. You don't have to explain if you don't want to, just their name is fine. I'm just curious. I'll let you know, mine is Greg Stiemsma. I don't understand why he's ever on the floor. For a guy who's known for being a solid defender, he routinely commits silly fouls, misses wide open shots, doesn't compete for rebounds and is constantly trying to act like the Enforcer when he's on the floor. I'd have him at the end of my bench as my very last option and start giving those minutes to a guy like Lou who is very active, hustles, always brings energy, has proven he can defend bigger opponents in the post, rebounds the basketball and always gives you 100%. Stiemsma can block shots, but more often than not he's whistled for a foul instead tallying a block. That's just my two cents, my apologies for the rant.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!