Missing their top two point guards, coming off twin heartbreak losses in Memphis and OKC, and still without starters Nene and Danilo Gallinari – the Denver Nuggets pounded out a crucial win over Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night. Big Al Harrington led the way with 31 points, Andre Miller dished out 12 assists in just three quarters of play, and Denver fought hard for a 103-101 overtime victory.
Just 24 hours before this gut-check win the Nuggets fell in OT to the Western Conference leading Thunder in Oklahoma City after leading in the final minute of regulation. On Friday night it was the Memphis Grizzlies fending off a resurgent Denver squad that trailed by 20+ points in the first half. The Nuggets came up a point short in that 102-103 loss.
On Monday in Denver a cadre of Nuggets role-players and backups fended off the Timberwolves’ potent young combo of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Minnesota outscored Denver 30-18 in the first quarter before roaring back for a five point lead at the half. Lost in the second quarter rush was starting point man Ty Lawson, who re-injured his troublesome left ankle before the break. By the end of the third quarter Denver had lost backup point guard Andre Miller to ejection after a highly questionable double-technical was assessed by the NBA’s inconsistent officiating crew.
That left undrafted guard Julyan Stone to guide the Nuggets the rest of the way. Luckily Harrington carried the offense, and Kenneth Faried (14 boards) out-battled super-rebounder Kevin Love (13). Stone’s biggest contributions came in the closing minutes when he shut down Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Rubio and made a series of clutch free throws to hold the Wolves at bay.
Said Big Al after the Nuggets’ big win, “We just needed it. We needed some good home cookin’ – to come back home and get a win.”
In breaking their three-game losing streak, Denver also snapped a three-game run of wins for Minnesota. Now the Nuggets will have a chance to go into the All Star Break with 20 wins.
The boys in powder blue sit at 18-15 for now – good for 8th place in the Western Conference – after rising as high as 2nd place in the West just a few weeks ago. Standing between Denver and their 19th & 20th wins are two brutal matchups. First comes a trip to Los Angeles where the Nuggets will play a tough Clippers squad, followed by a final home game before the All Star Break against the current 2nd best in the West – the streaking San Antonio Spurs.