Nuggets end six- game los­ing streak

De­fense shuts down T’wolves

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Christopher Dempsey Christopher Dempsey: cdempsey@ den­ver­post. com or @ dempsey­post

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

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