The Wolves more or less had this one under control for the full 48 minutes, despite the old home-team-making-a-run during the mid-to-late stages of the fourth quarter.;
This game wasn’t supposed to be a really easy contest, but it became even more difficult when word came out this afternoon that Ty Lawson would play for the Nuggets after missing much of February with a rib injury. Between Denver getting their best player back, playing their sixth and final game of the road trip, and playing at altitude, it promised to be anything but a simple victory.
But it was, until a slew of missed free throws in the final minute and a half brought this game within the dreaded four-point margin. Of course, I’m fairly confident that this was an intentional and conscious choice by Minnesota to bring their record in games decided by four points or less closer to in line with what probability might suggest is more reasonable than the way the Wolves started the season. (Not that 2-12 is reasonable, but hey, we’re getting there I guess?)
After the late barrage of Nuggets threes and Wolves free throws, the first three and a half quarters were forgotten a bit, but don’t miss how solidly Minnesota played for much of the evening. The Wolves’ offense ran smoothly, and the defense wasn’t nearly as poor as the final score of 132-128 might suggest.
Courtesy of Fox Sports North’s Phil Ervin, it was pointed out that tonight’s 52 of 64 from the free throw line was a) the most made free throws in a game since 1990 (!), and b) the 64 attempts were the most in a game since 1999. That’s incredible. And there wasn’t a Hack-a-Player situation going on like most games with gaudy free throw numbers. This was just a foul-happy Nuggets team and a very aggressive Wolves offensive attack.
Kevin Love did his thing, putting up 33 points, 19 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Nikola Pekovic played very well in 24 minutes of action in his second game back from injury, scoring 16 points on 5 of 8 shooting and pulling down 9 boards. Other than Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets didn’t have a whole lot in the paint to slow down the Wolves’ bruisers.
J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham both played well off the bench for Minnesota, and their play of late has made many Wolves fans wonder why the tandem didn’t play like this early on in the campaign. The rejuvenated second unit has found a bit of a rhythm with Shabazz Muhammad and the return of Chase Budinger to the bench. Luc Mbah a Moute and Gorgui Dieng played will in limited minutes again on Monday night, and things seem to be jelling nicely in the latest incarnation of Adelman’s rotation.
The Wolves’ 4-1 road trip and six wins in their last seven games has them back over the .500 mark at 30-29, with what should be an easy home stand on the horizon. Target Center will play host to the reeling New York Knicks (21-40) on Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. Another game, another must-win. You know the drill.