The Denver Nuggets got back on track Wednesday night with a 103-101 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After losing to Minnesota in game 82 last season, the Nuggets were able to avenge their crushing defeat that forced them to miss out on the postseason. The win also pushes Denver’s record to 11-7, which is good for sixth place in the Western Conference and moves them just a game and a half behind the Portland Trailblazers for first place in the West.
Coming into tonight, the Nuggets had lost six of their last seven games and were in desperate need of a victory. The Nuggets opened the game like a team looking for a big time win, but the shots were not falling. At the 6:21 mark of the first quarter, Denver was shooting just 4-of-12 from the field, but still only trailed by three.
Paul Millsap had five of the Nuggets first 10 points and drilled Denver’s first three-pointer of the night. It was the opposite story for Gary Harris as he started just 1-of-5 from the field and was 0-for-4 from behind the three-point line.
As Harris was missing open shots, the same could not be said for the Timberwolves as they went 7-of-10 from the field to start the game. Even with their hot shooing start they still could not pull away from the Nuggets as Denver took a 16-15 lead with 3:58 remaining in the first quarter.
Denver was able to draw two first quarter fouls on Karl-Anthony Towns, which sent him to the bench for the remainder of the period. The Nuggets took advantage with a 6-0 run that was capped off by a beautiful pass from Nikola Jokic to Millsap for an easy lay in.
The Timberwolves were able to catch fire to finish the period though and took a 25-23 lead going into quarter number two. Denver shot just 3-of-11 from three in the first quarter, but had plenty of wide open looks to build on as the game wore on.
Those open looks were still not falling in the second quarter as Denver opened the period 0-of-2 from three, but 4-of-7 from the field. Those points came courtesy of the Nuggets driving to the basket and realizing that their shots from three were not falling. It was not till Malik Beasley hit a three with 7:30 remaining in the quarter that Denver was able to tie the game back up at 35 and finally make a shot from downtown.
B E A S L E Y
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 22, 2018
Beasley’s hot shooting continued to help the Nuggets offense as he had three triples in the second quarter and shot a perfect 4-of-4 from the field to give him 11 points. It was not just Beasley that was shooting well for Denver though as Millsap also had 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field at the five minute mark of the second quarter.
Denver still trailed 47-44 with just over three minutes left until halftime, and still had very little scoring contribution outside of Beasley and Millsap. The Nuggets shooting problems continued to finish the quarter as the Timberwolves took a 55-50 lead into halftime.
At the break, Denver was shooting just 21-of-47 from the field and just 6-of-18 from behind the arc. Beasley and Millsap still led the way offensively with 11 points a piece, while the next closest Nuggets player was Harris with eight points. Harris was 0-of-5 from three in the first half with most of those misses coming when their was no defender in sight. That was the story of Denver’s first half though as they got great looks, but the shots just would not fall.
The Nuggets also struggled to get to the free-throw line in the first half as they went just 2-of-2 from the line in the games first 24 minutes. That was a number that drastically needed to improve in the second half if the Nuggets wanted to stay in the game and end their three game losing streak on the road.
Denver started fast to open up the third as a Harris dunk and Millsap reverse lay in cut the Nuggets deficit to 56-54 with 10:01 remaining in the quarter.
START THE HALF THE RIGHT WAY pic.twitter.com/WLD35dp633
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 22, 2018
That would be the start of a 17-9 run to begin the quarter for Denver as Millsap scored 12 points in the first six minutes of the period. Millsap had 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting from the field to go along with five steals, before he had to go to the locker room after getting a cut above his eye courtesy of a Towns elbow.
Denver still kept the momentum going even with Millsap off the floor as they took a 72-65 lead with 3:59 remaining in the quarter. The shots finally started to fall for Denver as they had already hit four shots from downtown in the quarter, with Jamal Murray chipping in three of those. Murray’s third three gave Denver a 78-67 lead with 2:27 left in the quarter as the Nuggets 28-11 run grew even larger.
After starting the game 6-of-18 from there, the Nuggets shot 6-of-11 from distance in the third quarter to give them an 85-74 lead going into the fourth. The play of Millsap and Murray was the spark Denver needed as the two combined for 39 points and six triples through three quarters.
Denver outscored Minnesota 35-18 in the third quarter to give them an 11-point lead and a chance to steal a major victory on the road in the games final 12 minutes. All the Nuggets needed was to build on what worked so well in the third quarter, which is exactly what they did. A Monte Morris floater off a wicked cross-over got Denver going to start the period as the Nuggets offense continued to look the best its looked all season.
With the Nuggets second unit in, the Timberwolves made a bit of a run cutting Denver’s lead to 89-80 with 8:20 remaining in the game. Denver would quickly lose all momentum though as the Timberwolves run reached 12-0 and cut the Nuggets lead to 89-88 with 7:02 left in the game. Minnesota’s run all happened in just over a minute as Derrick Rose and the rest of the Timberwolves got hot to get them right back into the game.
The Nuggets went scoreless for just over four minutes before Harris’ first three of the night pushed Denver’s lead to 92-88 with 4:55 left in the game. A big time three from Jokic gave Denver a 97-91 lead with 2:40 remaining, before a 4-0 run by Minnesota cut the lead to two. Denver quickly answered as a Harris lay up and Millsap floater gave the Nuggets a 101-95 lead with 1:32 left in regulation.
A few Timberwolves baskets cut the Nuggets lead to 101-99 with six seconds left as Murray stepped to the line with a chance to ice the game for Denver. Murray did just that as the Nuggets were able to walk away with a 103-101 victory to get back into the win column.
Stat leaders for the Nuggets were Millsap, who finished with 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field — 2-of-2 from behind the three-point line — and also added in five steals. Harris also had a good night for Denver with 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field, while also chipping in four rebounds and two assists. Other good stat lines for Denver came from Jokic, who had a double-double with seven points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. As well as Murray, who had 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the field to go along with four assists and three rebounds.
The Nuggets will have an off day tomorrow before they’re back in action Friday night to face the Orlando Magic at the Pepsi Center.