TAMING THE T-WOLVES

Nikola Jo­kic leads team to win

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

The Nuggets and Tim­ber­wolves aren’t ships pass­ing in the night as much as they are or­ga­ni­za­tions on sim­i­lar tra­jec­to­ries: Up, both teams hope.

There was a ton of good young tal­ent on the court Wed­nes­day night at the well-at­tended Nuggets game at the Pepsi Cen­ter. And it was the Den­ver’s young guns — and some older ones — that blazed the trail to a 105-103 win over Min­nesota, mark­ing the Nuggets’ sec­ond straight vic­tory and fifth in their past seven games.

“It was huge to get the win,” Nuggets for­ward Wil­son Chan­dler said. “We’d lost a few close games. It was good to get the win.”

An­drew Wig­gins. Karl-An­thony Towns. Gary Har­ris. Em­manuel Mu­diay. Zach LaVine. Nikola Jo­kic. Those are the names of the fu­tures of both fran­chises. And all per­formed well. But aside from the high-oc­tane scor­ing we’ve come to ex­pect out of Wig­gins — which he de­liv­ered — it was Jo­kic that stole the night. Again. If this is repet­i­tive, it’s only be­cause Jo­kic, 21, has been that con­sis­tent. Game af­ter game he brings the most unique set of to­tal skills of any cen­ter in the NBA. He scores in the post. He scores on the perime­ter. He re­bounds. He leads the fast break. He puts pretty much every pass on time and on tar­get.

On Wed­nes­day, those dimes piled up 11 high. It was a ca­reer high in as­sists, part of a near triple-dou­ble for Jo­kic that in­cluded 16 points and eight re­bounds.

“It’s be­com­ing a reg­u­lar oc­ca­sion for him to go out there and get dou­ble-fig­ure as­sists,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

His game has taken an enor­mous jump from the start of the sea­son to the level those around the fran­chise were cer­tain he could reach. Not that this is the ceil­ing. But with him, the Nuggets play the brand of free-flow­ing bas­ket­ball they’ve wanted to get to. If you’re look­ing for an iden­tity, this is the one the Nuggets want to have.

“I just know I would love to play with him,” Malone said. “If you cut, he will find you. And there’s a good chance when he finds you, you’re go­ing to have a layup.”

To get the win Wed­nes­day, how­ever, the Nuggets had to over­come a rar­ity with the new start­ing lineup — a slow start.

The Tim­ber­wolves, led by An­drew Wig­gins, jumped all over the Nuggets at the start, scor­ing 31 points in the first quar­ter. They’d build a 13-point lead be­fore the Nuggets got a foothold into the game. De­fen­sive im­prove­ment was nec­es­sary, and the Nuggets got to it in the sec­ond quar­ter, hold­ing the Tim­ber­wolves to 18 points to end the half tied.

The Nuggets did more sep­a­rat­ing in the third quar­ter, build­ing an 11-point lead be­fore the game set­tled into a fight in the fourth. Min­nesota erased the lead and tied it at 103 with 58 sec­onds to play. Danilo Gal­li­nari brought the crowd to its feet when he an­swered with a fade­away bank shot to give the Nuggets the lead with 27 sec­onds left.

They made it stand up when Wil­son Chan­dler blocked a Wig­gins layup at­tempt on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion. The ball was thrown back out by Har­ris into the back court, but LaVine tracked it down, sprinted up court and re­leased what would have been a game-win­ning 3-pointer. It missed.

“I was like, ‘Please don’t make it, please don’t make it,’ ” Har­ris said. “I didn’t want them to get a pos­ses­sion right down there, so just throw it full court, waste some time and hope­fully they didn’t make it. And that’s what hap­pened.”

Gary Har­ris skies for a dunk against the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves dur­ing the sec­ond half of the Nuggets' 105-103 win Wed­nes­day night. AAron On­tiveroz, The Den­ver Post

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