The Timberwolves returned home after two weeks on the road and did so in spectacular fashion dropping the Denver Nuggets 117-100 Sunday afternoon.
Kevin Love racked up yet another 30-20 game finishing with 30 points and 21 rebounds as the Wolves moved up to just two and a half games out of the eight seed in the West. This is a key win for the Wolves as Denver sits two spots ahead of them and the loss for the Nuggets keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble.
But the Wolves roared in their return to the Target Center and in front of a sold out crowd, much thanks to a free ticket bread promotion (oh how Minnesotan), with all but Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson and Malcolm Lee hitting double digit point totals on the day.
The game took a while to get a flow and that’s not the fault of the teams. Twice the game had to be stopped fue to a faulty shot clock that kept skipping to :04 seconds. After a second lengthy delay that was met by loud and annoyed boos by the sold out crowd, the shot clock was abandon — at least digitally and the PA announcer gave updates on how much time was left.
Even brining out the old school floor level shot clock didn’t work and it wasn’t until halftime that the technicians were able to come out and fix the clock for the second half.
But the Wolves didn’t wait for the shot clock to work to start draining buckets. Minnesota trailed briefly at the beginning of the game but soon blasted ahead, leading 68-43 at the half and never looking back. Minnesota never trailed again after being down early in the first to Denver.
Kevin Love had his third 20-20 game of the season and to any other player in the NBA it was a career night, but for Love it was business as usual.
“I think we used to call him kind of a poor man’s Larry Bird,” Denver coach George Karl said. “I think you can take ‘poor man’s’ off that comparison now. His ability to rebound is incredible and his offensive tools and skills are growing.”
But Love wasn’t the only contributor to the Wolves day. Luke Ridnour led the team in rebounds with six and threw down 25 on the day playing a majority of the game with both Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea both out. Rubio is done for the year with next year’s start on question, but Barea was a supposed healthy scratch after playing against the Thunder.
But it wasn’t a great day in every aspect for Minnesota. They got destroyed in the paint, losing the battle 64-38 and the fast break battle was even more lopsided. The Wolves scored just two fast break points but the Nuggets, largely behind the slam dunking efforts of Kenneth Faried, scored 29.
The Wolves are, for the first time since another guy named Kevin was in town, are looking at a serious playoff run. They came into the game 3 1/2 games behind the Nuggets and gained a game with the win. But with their spark plug in Rubi gone for the year, the weight falls entirely on Love again and the amount of minutes he sees will begin to take a toll.
“I worry about him all the time because he plays so many minutes,” head coach Rick Adelman said. “He seems to get through it pretty good.”
The Wolves are just 2 1/2 games behind the Nuggets, Rockets and Jazz for the eighth and seventh seeds with the Wolves owning a tie breaker over the Rockets.
With 16 games remaining for Minnesota, the crunch time is now and the time to make a serious push and not lose games is now. Minnesota can’t afford to drop the occasional game, especially now that they are within reach of a playoff spot. Denver, Houston and Utah are fighting just as hard for the same spots the Wolves are and people forget that the Suns are also ahead of the Wolves fighting for a spot.
Sunday’s performance was encouraging but the work isn’t anywhere near done.
Next Three Games:
3/27 – @Memphis
3/28 – @Charlotte
3/29 – Vs. Boston