“I like to compete. I like to compete. I’ll do anything. Whatever it takes to help my team win and especially when I get in a little rhythm I try to take over a little bit.”
Every team in the National Basketball Association plays 82 regular season games. Among that long slate of competitions will inevitably be a handful of strange results. Tonight was one of those nights. Denver came into its matchup with Minnesota sporting a league-best 10-1 record at home. Even if Denver is not a true “championship contender,” they protect their mile-high home court as well as any team possibly could. The Timberwolves, on the other hand, came into the game tired. They had their asses handed to them in Utah less than 24 hours prior, and had a shoddy 5-10 record away from Target Center. The Wolves’ task became steeper late in the 3rd Quarter, tonight, when Kevin Love checked out of the game in obvious pain and his team trailing by 10 points. Love’s right-hand injury was somehow aggravated and a loss appeared inevitable. Up to this point, Love had continued to struggle with his jump shot (he was 4-13 tonight). But he was grinding out a productive performance and doing all he could to keep his team in the game. In 24 minutes he compiled an impressive 12 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists stat line. Up to that point, like much of the season to date, nobody could buy a jumper from beyond the three-point line.
It was right about that point in the game that the lid came off of the Wolves basket. With a shade over 2 minutes to play in the third, Luke Ridnour hit a trey to cut the deficit to 66-62. Next time down, J.J. Barea hit a bomb of his own and all of a sudden and Rubio & Love-less Timberwolves cut it to 1. ‘T’was the deficit heading into the fourth.
The final period opened with every indication that it would belong to Ty Lawson. The speedy point guard, a reserve in this game as he returned from an injury, opened the quarter with 8 points on Denver’s first four possessions. When former Timberwolf Corey Brewer scored an “And-1″ to extend the Nuggets lead to 6 (83-77) defeat again seemed likely.
And that’s when Luke & J.J. took over.
Barea made a field goal to cut it to 4. Then he assisted Derrick Williams for a transition layup. Then Luke hit a jumper. Then Luke hit a layup assisted by J.J. After Brewer hit a wild jumper that only Corey Brewer would take (and make) Luke answered it with a J of his own to tie the game at 87. Barea then hit another bucket to give the Wolves a 2-point lead and Denver called timeout.
Things got wild after that. J.J. schooled JaVale McGee for one of those body-blocking, forward-extending layups. [This is the league’s longest, freakiest defender being shielded off and scored on by a comparative midget. Just plain weird to watch.] Andre Iguodala matched it with a jumper of his own and the score remained tied. With J.J. in all-out swag mode, Adelman had no desire to put Alexey Shved (who had played an all-around solid game) back in there. Give J.J. the ball. Get out of the way. Next time down, J.J. dominated the ball and eventually dished to Luke who swished a left-wing trey to give the Wolves a three-point lead. After Andre Miller unsuccessfully posted up J.J. (forced into a fadeaway–J.J. defends the post well with his charge-deterring flops) the Wolves called timeout and again set up a J.J. iso. Another three-bomb, but this time J.J.’s own. He was killing it.
Andre Miller way-too-quickly scored on a straight-line drive to cut it to 4. No worries. In one of the key, game-sealing plays, Dante Cunningham corralled a Pekovic miss after the Wolves had killed almost all of the 24-second clock and allowed another 24 to burn before–you guessed it–J.J. put ice on it with another bucket.
J.J. Barea, never one to shy away from big moments, (but certainly one to frustrate in his pursuits for glory) was the game MVP in a great, much-needed win.
Iggy’s Free Throws
Andre Iguodala, a star wing player in many people’s eyes, shot 1 for 7 from the charity stripe in this game. I’m not even sure how that’s possible for this type of player. His struggles were certainly a key factor in the game’s outcome. (Looking into it, he is apparently a pretty bad foul shooter overall.)
Alexey Shved: Good & Bad
Shved shot the ball well tonight. He was 7-13 and scored 17 points. He also had 5 assists. But for the second straight game (in as many days) he coughed the ball up at the first sign of physical perimeter defense. For contrast: Watch J.J. Barea when he gets past a defender. He immediately has the ball well in front of him and almost shifts back and forth between “drive” and “reverse” to bump back the otherwise-threatening defender. NBA officials will overwhelmingly react to contact with foul calls on the defense. Has Shved been called for a single offensive foul this year? He should make that a goal. He played well for parts of this game, but his -7 (as opposed to Barea’s +20) is partially due to his own mistakes in the backcourt. His loose-handles mistakes usually lead to uncontested dunks on the other end.
Kosta & Brewer… Really?
Former TWolves Kosta Koufos and Corey Brewer were key contributors tonight for the Nuggets. Kosta had 16 points on 8-10 shooting. He also had 4 steals. Brew had 12 points, 3 assists and 2 steals off the bench. Had Denver won this game, the frustration of having been edged by former [pains me to say this about Brew] scrubs of our own would’ve stung. Lawson, Iggy, Gallo and Faried are legit ballers. So is Andre Miller. I’m not so sure about Brew and Koufos.
Great, great win.
Season Record: 15-14