The Timberwolves definitely aren't known for their defensive prowess and tonight was a prime example at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
The Wolves played terribly on defense up until the last couple minutes of the game. The Wolves were allowing easy lanes to the bucket for uncontested shots. The defense was porous and the troubling part is that (while these guys aren't known for their D) they aren't completely incompetent on that side of the ball.
The Wolves turned up the defensive intensity in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, but by then it was too little too late. A recurring theme for the Wolves this season is that they simply have no quit in them--and that's a VERY good thing. Kevin Martin and Kevin Love are a very lethal offensive duo and they both hit some shots down the stretch, but the Wolves couldn't get any breaks on the other side of the ball.
They played the 'fouling game' in the final thirty seconds. The Nuggets went 5-for-8 from the line in the final 28 seconds, but it was on the second Wilson Chandler free throw with 15 seconds to play that was the dagger...and it wasn't because he made the shot. Chandler missed the free throw, but guard Andre Miller corralled the rebound. Miller was one of the players standing beyond the three-point line as Chandler took his free throws and Andre ran from behind the line and was able to beat everyone to the basketball for the offensive board. The rule is that the four players beyond that three-point line are not allowed inside that line until the ball leaves the shooters hand. Miller didn't do anything wrong, but Adelman was and has been frustrated for years that this rule hasn't been changed to it "hitting the rim" instead of "leaving the hand" as it gives an unfair advantage because that player is coming from the outside with no one to box him out. I would like to say I agree and IT IS unfortunate that he grabbed the board, but I don't see anything wrong with the rule. Miller is a great veteran player and he made a great veteran play...plain and simple.
That clearly changed the game as the Wolves were down just three points after Chandler missed that second free throw. Because Miller grabbed the board, they had to quickly foul him and he went to the line and hit one of the two free throws which put them up four points with 12 seconds to play and sealed the deal for Denver.
Let's take a look at tonight's box score...
Coming into tonight the Timberwolves were getting to the line an average of 28 times a game, tonight that number was much lower and it's clear that the Timberwolves have relied on that production through the first nine games of the season.
The Nuggets came into the night as the better rebounding team and that was the case tonight as they held a +4 on the boards.
With such a close game there really aren't a lot of stats that jump out as "what decided the game". I suppose with Minnesota's poor defensive effort, you can point to the 64 points they gave up as a clear disadvantage. Those 64 points in the paint are a season-high for a Timberwolves opponent this season.
The Nuggets also had an incredibly balanced scoring attack in this one--something I certainly didn't expect when I was looking up statistics for their starting lineup for the preview. The Nuggets came into the game with just two players averaging double digits and one of those guys (Wilson Chandler) had only played in one game, so the 12 points he had scored on Wednesday was his scoring average (12.0ppg). Tonight the Nuggets had seven players finish in double figures and three of them came from the starting lineup.
The Wolves only played eight players and six of them finished in double digits. Adelman didn't play regulars Alexey Shved or Derrick Williams in addition to A.J. Price & Gorgui Dieng, while Chase Budinger (knee), Ronny Turiaf (elbow) and Shabazz Muhammad (ankle) were all out with injuries.
We finally got a breakout game from J.J. Barea, unfortunately it was in a losing effort, but he did all he could to not let that happen. 13 of J.J.'s 21 points came in the fourth quarter as he helped Minnesota narrow the gap down the stretch. Dante Cunningham also had a nice game and for the first time this season the bench didn't look completely inept--not playing Alexey Shved & Derrick Williams definitely helped.
The Wolves fall to 6-4 on the season and they'll have to right this ship immediately as they hop on a plane and make the trek back to Minnesota for tomorrow night's game vs. the Celtics at the Target Center. We'll have a full gameday preview of that one up tomorrow afternoon.
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!