Nuggets end six- game losing streak
Defense shuts down T’wolves
minneapolis » They arrived at theTargetCenter with identical records of 12- 23 but very different atmospheres. While the Nuggets talked of unity, enthusiasm and being upbeat during a six- game losing streak, Minnesota Timberwolves interim coach SamMitchell answered questions about a team meeting to clear the air.
No matter what, however, both needed a win. Badly. Denver got it, 78- 74 onWednesday night.
“The game did not have a lot of rhythm,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “This gameis not going to win any awards for style points. But when you have two teams that are desperate for awin and are willing to do whatever it takes, it’s going to be like that.”
The winwas a joy for theNuggets for the two streaks it snapped. First, and most important, it snapped a six- game losing streak. But second, the Nuggets were 0- 14 this season when scoring fewer than 100 points. Not anymore.
“We weren’t great by any means,” Malone said. “But we did enough to win the game.”
Defense led the way late in the game. The Nuggets got a defensive stop with 15 seconds left, and Will Barton made two free throws with 6.6 seconds remaining to seal it. Minnesota’s last- gasp shots missed, and the Nuggets walked out with the victory. In the end, the Nuggets forced theWolves to miss 18 of their last 19 shots.
“It always feels good to get a win, no matter how you get it,” said Danilo Gallinari, who led the team with 20 points, and he added seven rebounds. “I thoughtwe did a great job on defense.”
Thewinwaspowered in twoareas: 3- point shooting and Jusuf Nurkic.
Denver’s ability tomake 3- point shots was, at first, the reason it was able to stay in the game inthe first place. Notmuch elsewas falling. That led to this crazy stat: The Nuggets were 6- of- 10 ( 60 percent) from the 3- point line in the first half. Theywere 9- of- 31 on two- point shots ( 29 percent). So, yes, they needed those to fall. And with the 3- point shots on line, theNuggetswere able towait until Nurkic got going. And boy, did he. He had 11 points, six rebounds and four blocks in the second half. But beyond the production, he was giving the Nuggets something they sorely needed — paint presence, both offensively and defensively.
Hewas scoringsowell, theNuggets actively looked for him on the block. They repeatedly fed him, and he often delivered. Defensively, he blocked shots, giving the Nuggets legitimate rim protection. Nurkic finished with his first double- double of the season, 15 points and 10 rebounds, and added a career- high five blocks.
“I’m happy for the win,” Nurkic said. “This team has the talent to win a lot of games.”
Even with Nurkic’s game, the Nuggets had work to do.
They were down by as many as 10 points and a 12- 4 start to the third put them in a hole. But a 20- 9 run to end the third gaveDenver a one- point lead into the fourth. It never pulled away but made enough plays to win.
“For us to come on the road and get another road win, we’ve done a good job of playing on the road this year,” Malone said. “I think it speaks to your team’s mental toughness.”
Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari drives on the Timberwolves’ Tayshaun Prince onWednesday night. Jim Mone, The Associated Press