On a night when the Minnesota Timberwolves lost Kevin Love after 8 minutes in the first quarter, they were still able to stage a large comeback that, unfortunately wasn't enough as Denver escaped with the 107-113 victory.
It was a scary scene when Kevin Love went down with four minutes to play in the first quarter after and elbow from Nugget center JaVale McGee in the paint. He hit the floor and lay motionless. For the next several minutes the training staffs from both teams tended to him. The 'freakiest' part of the whole ordeal was seeing Love on the floor, with his eyes glazed over. He was eventually helped to his feet and had to be helped off the floor as he couldn't walk on his own. Reports called it a mild concussion and a neck sprain. He was took to a Denver hospital as a precautionary measure. No doubt the NBA's mandated concussion tests are in his near future.
The first half made it look as though it would be another long night and without Kevin Love a BIG loss. Then the second half rolled around and the Anthony Randolph/Derrick Williams show began! Both had season-high nights and nearly rallied the TWolves from a 24-point deficit for the comeback win. D-Will & Randolph became just the second pair of TWolves reserves to score 25+ points apiece off the bench in franchise history. We'll get to those full stats, in just a moment though.
The Timberwolves were down 47-68 after two quarters. The second half was the turning point. Minnesota outscored the Nuggets 33-21 in the third quarter to bring them within just nine points heading into the final quarter, they outscored Denver 27-24 in the fourth, but it just wasn't enough as Denver escaped with the 107-113 W. Minnesota tied it up at 105 after a three-pointer from Martell. The Nuggets answered quickly by an easy layup from Afflalo (where three TWolves defenders stood in the paint as he slashed to the rack). Randolph fouled Kenneth Faried on a rebound and he stepped to the line and knocked down two free throws to make it 105-109 with 57 seconds to play. Randolph scored on the next possession on a great pass from Barea to cut the lead to 2; 107-109. The Timberwolves got the stop and then J.J. Barea tried to play hero. He bricked a fadeaway jumper that made every TWolves fan watching cringe. Minnesota wouldn't score again and had to play the 'fouling game'.
It may have been a loss, but for the first time in a long time the Minnesota Timberwolves showed they actually DO still have a pulse. Part of that...in my opinion...the injury to Kevin Love.
I know I'll catch some barbs for this, but I honestly think...the way Minnesota has been playing lately, tonight showed that Love may not be that valuable. Sure, Randolph & Williams had season-high nights and they got solid games from the other four starters (Wes, Webster, J.J. & Pek), but play on both ends picked up with Love out of the lineup. I've said it recently: Kevin Love's defense is a cause for concern. For the previous two games, both of those teams' power forward had GREAT nights. Versus the Hornets, Jason Smith went off for 26pts. Versus the Suns, Markieff Morris came off the bench and scored 21pts. His offense is valuable (when he's shooting well), but recently he's become more like Michael Beasley. He stops the ball on offense and takes a lot of shots, while shooting a low percentage, but no one likes to talk about it, because he's their MVP candidate. Tonight showed that he's not the only Timberwolf capable of scoring, sure, Randolph & Williams aren't going to score 25+ every night out, but tonight showed that guys like J.J., Williams, Webster etc. came contribute on the offensive end and Kevin Love doesn't need to take so many shots. That being said, we'll definitely miss Love, because, as stated previously, guys like AR & D-Will can't be relied on to put forth a consistent effort. I've said this before too: I wish Kevin Love would've worked on his defense during the offseason, rather than his three-point shooting. All that said, I still really like Love as a player and I'm definitely glad he's a TWolf, he's our franchise superstar, no one's doubting that!
I think it's safe to say we won't see Kevin for tomorrow's game vs. the Clippers. Guys like Williams, Tolliver and Randolph will continue to see the big minutes in the frontcourt going forward.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers for each team...
HOT: Anthony Randolph & Derrick Williams. D-Will set new season/career-highs in FGM (10), FGA (20), 3PTA (9) and tied a season/career-high in points with 27. Randolph tied a season-high in FTM with 6 and set new season-highs in points (28), FGM (11), FGA (16), FTA (8), blocks (5) and minutes (31). Williams scored 14 straight Minnesota points through the third and fourth quarter up until Randolph ended that in the fourth quarter with a bucket. Both players went scoreless in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Williams (9pts), Randolph (9pts). Third quarter: Williams (10pts), Randolph (9pts). Fourth quarter: Williams (8pts), Randolph (10pts). Those 28 points for Randolph are his most since his career-high back on 3/24/2010 (31 points @Dallas).
NOT: Minnesota's 'luck'. The Minnesota sports scene, just cannot catch a break! Past few years injuries to key guys like Adrian Peterson (Vikings), Joe Mauer & Justin Morneau (Twins), Ricky Rubio etc. The punches roll on!
MISC.: J.J.'s double-double is his fourth of the season (12pts, 15ast), those 15 assists are a new career-high.....Pek & Webster also added 12pts and Wes had 11pts.....Al Harrington (playing with a torn meniscus) added 11pts off the bench for Denver......Andre Miller didn't score but dished out 7 assists......Faried's 12 rebounds were a game-high......Beasley played just 10 minutes (all in the first half) and went 0-for-3 from the field and had 1 foul......Wayne Ellington missed the game with back spasms, along with Luke Ridnour (fourth straight game he was out) with that sprained ankle.......
KEY STATS: Both teams shot 50% from the field, the Nuggets' one more made three, their +11 in fast break points and +10 in points in the paint are all advantages, but in a game that sees a team win by six points, there aren't too many things you can point out and say: "Yup, that's why we lost tonight!".
UP NEXT: The TWolves have just 7 games left on the year. They'll play the L.A. Clippers tomorrow night (April 12th), back at the Target Center, tipoff set of 7pmCT.
Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!