Nuggets pull out thriller over Timberwolves
By Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange
DENVER -- Some might call guard Andre Miller's rebound a savvy veteran move. Rick Adelman thought it was exploiting an unfair advantage.
However it's characterized, it helped the Denver Nuggets pull out a thriller.
Miller sprinted in from the 3-point line to rebound forward Wilson Chandler's missed free throw with 12.9 seconds and then hit a free throw to seal the Nuggets' 117-113 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
Chandler scored 19 points, forward Kenneth Faried had 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Nuggets held on in the final minute.
Forward Kevin Love scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and guard Kevin Martin had 27 points for the Timberwolves.
Guard Ty Lawson had 14 points and 10 assists for Denver, which got 66 points from their bench to hold off Minnesota.
The biggest bench play belonged to Miller. With Chandler at the line, Denver leading by three and trying to hold off a furious Minnesota rally, the 14-year veteran got the jump on everyone to get the missed free throw. Adelman, the Timberwolves coach, thought Miller left early but blamed the rule and not the player for the turn of events.
"It makes no sense why the league allows that to happen. It's the only shot in basketball you can't box out on," Adelman said. "I don't understand for 10 years why they don't say nobody can go in there until the ball hits the rim.
"For all the stuff we change we never look at that situation. Somebody will lose a big game in the playoffs and they'll change something."
Miller said he was simply trying to take the Timberwolves by surprise.
"We talk about those things in practice, and blocking out on our side. They didn't do it," Miller said. "Kind of had their hands on their knees and I just kind of snuck in there just in case (the ball came out)."
It was a happy moment right after a scary one for the Nuggets. Lawson was poked in the right eye driving to the basket with 32 seconds remaining and crumbled under the Minnesota basket. He left the game but afterward said he would be fine.
"It felt like my eye was in the back of my head and it was bleeding, and I thought it was bleeding on the inside," Lawson said. "It looked a lot worse than it was. They put in a bunch of eye drops and whatever else they put in so is should be ready (for Saturday)."
If Lawson can't play against Houston, the Nuggets might have to lean on their bench again, which was stellar Friday.
After Lawson gave the Nuggets a 74-72 lead, center Timofey Mozgov scored six points, Chandler had a bucket and guard Evan Fournier scored on a layup to make it 84-75 late in the quarter.
Guard J.J. Barea, who finished with 21 points, hit a shot at the buzzer, cutting it to five heading into the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets' reserves continued their strong play in the fourth quarter. Fournier hit a 3-pointer and guard Andre Miller's putback banker and 3-pointer made it 103-92 with 6:22 left.
The Timberwolves (6-4) closed to 109-101 on Love's 3-pointer with 3:19 left. Forward Corey Brewer's 3-pointer with 49 seconds left cut Denver's lead to four.
After Chandler hit two free throws to make it a five-point game, Love made a 3-pointer with 18.9 seconds left to cut the lead to 115-113.
Chandler hit a free throw, Miller came up with his big play and Faried, who finished with 10 rebounds, blocked Martin's driving attempt in the final seconds to seal the win.
"It was our defense all game. Our rotations weren't there," Love said. "We needed to help the helper, ball screen rotations, they were off all night but we were still right there at the end."
The Nuggets (4-4) went up 40-26 with 10:33 left in the second quarter, but the Timberwolves controlled the rest of the half. Martin led the resurgence with 11 of his 16 first-half points as Minnesota chipped away at the deficit.
Martin's 18-foot jumper tied it at 52 with 2:11 left and his fast-break dunk with 9.9 seconds remaining capped a 34-16 run that ended the second quarter and gave the Timberwolves a 60-56 lead at the break.
Despite the loss, Minnesota feels good about its start to the season.
"We had a few games we felt could have gone our way but if we can get 60 percent or more of our games we'll feel good about that," Love said. "We feel as if we can get a lot better with this team. It's still mid-November and we're going to get a lot better."
NOTES: The Timberwolves are in the midst of seven games in 11 days. Friday was the start of three back-to-back games in the next eight days. ... The Nuggets have five players listed on the NBA All-Star ballot but two of them -- F Danilo Gallinari and C JaVale McGee -- are hurt. ... Minnesota C Ronny Turiaf is still working his way back from a fractured right elbow suffered in the second game of the season. "As soon as he can have enough flexibility in that arm (he'll come back), but unfortunately he's going to have to do it on his own because we're not going to be practicing much in the next two weeks," coach Rick Adelman said. ... The Nuggets had 13 players averaging at least 15 minutes a game entering Friday. ... Timberwolves G Kevin Martin returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's game with flu-like symptoms.