The Nuggets certainly made things interesting down the stretch, but the Wolves escaped the Mile High City with a 132-128 win thanks to their efficiency at the free throw line.
The Wolves went 52-for-64 at the line which sets new franchise records in makes (previously 41) and attempts (previously 51). Kevin Martin himself made the same amount of free throws as the entire Nuggets squad.
The Wolves led by 19 points with 6:07 to play (113-92). The Nuggets finished the quarter on a 36-19 run, but couldn't overcome Minnesota's efficiency at the line and the Wolves grabbed their third win of the season in a game decided by four points or less.
Kevin Martin was a bit part of this win, hitting a season high 16 free throws on a season-high 17 attempts. Martin was a perfect 10-for-10 in the fourth quarter, with 8 of those attempts coming in the final 26 seconds.
The Nuggets countered by hitting four consecutive three-pointers in the final 23 seconds.
The Wolves definitely put this one on cruise control and unfortunately the Nuggets hit some difficult shots down the stretch to get this game close. The Nuggets cut the lead to single digits with 1:26 to play. It was the first time the Wolves lead was down to single digits since the opening quarter.
It definitely has to hurt for the Nuggets. When you score 128 points in a game you expect to win. As a matter of fact, coming into tonight's game, the Nuggets had won their last 52 games at home when scoring 110 points or more.
The Wolves countered with their 10th 120+ point outing of the season (a new franchise record and second-most this season behind L.A. Clippers' 11).
With tonight's win the Wolves move one game above .500. Minnesota is also 5 games behind the 8th seed and 4 games behind the 9th place Grizzlies.
The Wolves have a very good chance to continue their late push to the playoffs with a very favorable upcoming schedule, of Minnesota's next 6 opponents only one of them sports a winning record (the Raptors on 3/9).
Tonight's box score...
Minnesota scored a season-high 132 points and gave up an opponent season-high 128 points.
The Wolves got great production from J.J. Barea (who always seems to elevate his game vs. the Nuggets). Barea played well, but did he play well enough to have Ricky Rubio on the bench down the stretch once again? No. Especially when the Wolves were in desperate need of perimeter defense and the best free throw shooters. Ricky Rubio shoots over 80% from the line on the season and he definitely would've fought through some picks better than J.J. Unfortunately it's something that we're going to continue to see for the remainder of the season.
The Wolves had three players set new season-highs in free throw attempts (and or makes): Barea (7-8), Martin (16-17) & Muhammad (5-6).
I think it goes without saying that if the Wolves want to make the playoffs it's going to take a much better effort on both sides of the ball than what we saw tonight. If the Wolves are allowing a Nuggets squad led by Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler & Randy Foye to score 128, how will they fare against a Thunder squad led by Durant, Westbrook & Ibaka or a Rocket trio of Harden, Howard & Parsons...how about the Clips' Paul, Griffin & Redick? Clearly it'll take better D...or just 'some' D.
The Wolves are back in action on Wednesday night back at the Target Center after finishing their five-game road trip 4-1. Wednesday's game will tip at 7pmCST vs. the visiting New York Knicks, enjoy!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!