Timberwolves Wrap: Close loss to Nuggets

Dec 28, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (back) celebrates with Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) after the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 105-103. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (back) celebrates with Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) after the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 105-103. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

The Timberwolves led big early and trailed by 10 points late, but ultimately had a shot (two shots, actually) to win the game in the closing seconds and failed.

103. 86. 105. 73. Final

Wednesday night was yet another opportunity wasted for the Timberwolves.

Facing a division opponent with a record well below the .500-mark, the Wolves had a real chance to notch their fifth victory over the past eight games. And early on, it looked like it could be a relatively easy go of it.

Minnesota led by as many as 13 points early in the second quarter, but the Nuggets got back in the game as the Wolves’ offense faltered first, followed by their already-shaky defense. Denver even took a brief lead in the final three minutes of the first half, but the game was tied at halftime.

The Nuggets won the third quarter with ease by a margin of 32-24. The Wolves offense continued to be largely stagnant while the home Nuggets were getting out in the open floor and scoring consistently.

Denver’s lead hovered around 10 points for most of the final frame. After a pair of free throws by Nikola Jokic at the 3:48 mark, the Nuggets led by exactly 10 and the game looked to be about out of reach.

But then Ricky Rubio went on a 4-0 run of his own before Karl-Anthony Towns took over. Towns scored four points sandwiched around a dominant block on the defensive end of the floor. With the score standing at 103-100 in favor of the Nuggets, Andrew Wiggins missed a pair of free throws that would have otherwise drawn the Timberwolves within a single point, but Towns tipped in the second miss to draw the Wolves within one point anyway.

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Jokic missed a shot on the other end and Towns grabbed the rebound. Wiggins was fouled again, this time making one of the two free shots to tie the game with 58 seconds remaining.

After a timeout, the Wolves played impressive, lock-down defense — until another miss by Jokic led to an offensive rebound. Given new life, the Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari made an exceedingly tough, off-balance, fadeaway 14-footer that banked in to give the Nuggets a 105-103 lead with 27 seconds remaining.

A timeout by the Timberwolves ensued, and on their next possession Wiggins had his layup attempt blocked from behind at the rim on an outstanding defensive play from Wilson Chandler.

The offensive rebound pinged around until Zach LaVine could corral it in the back court, however, and the Wolves’ shooting guard had a good look at what would have been a game-winning three-pointer at the top of the arc, but it clanged off the front of the rim and the game was over.

Tweet of the Night

Star of the Night

Karl-Anthony Towns: 15 points (7-17 FG, 1-2 3P, 0-0 FT), 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 blocks, 3 turnovers

Towns notched his first career triple-double, dishing out a career-high 10 assists as he finally decided to pass out of double-teams on a consistent basis. Of course, the Nuggets held him to just 15 points, and in some ways, that probably helped Denver grab the win.

The biggest issue with Towns’ performance isn’t the 7-for-17 shooting — it’s the zero free throw attempts. While KAT was a willing passer, he wasn’t aggressive enough down low to draw any shooting fouls on the defense.

Notable Timberwolves Lines

  • Ricky Rubio: 18 points (5-14 FG, 1-7 3P, 7-7 FT), 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 4 turnovers
  • Andrew Wiggins: 25 points (11-20 FG, 2-4 3P, 1-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 steals, one assist, 0 turnovers
  • Gorgui Dieng: 20 points (9-11 FG, 2-2 FT), 8 rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, one turnover
  • Zach LaVine: 17 points (7-17 FG, 2-8 3P, 1-2 FT), 5 assists, one rebound, one steal, 0 turnovers

Rubio struggled mightily from beyond the arc, and in a strange twist, actually shot 4-of-7 from inside the three-point line. He was ultra-aggressive in getting shots at the rim, however, and it stemmed from Towns’ willingness to pass out of the post. The eight rebounds, seven assists, and four steals made up for the missed shots and the four turnovers, for the most part.

Wiggins was very good, but only attempted four free throws — all late in the game, and he missed three of them. He only had one assist but also managed to have zero turnovers.

Dieng was fantastic early in the game and remained efficient throughout. There were some defensive struggles and a sub-par effort on the glass in this one, but overall it was a solid performance.

LaVine struggled, and the miss from beyond the arc at the buzzer was a shot — with momentum headed towards the basket on a pull-up attempt in a clutch moment  — that he usually makes. Still, five assists and zero turnovers is a nice look from your starting shooting guard.

Next: Will The Timberwolves Increase Their Pace Of Play?

Who’s Up Next?

The Wolves head back to Minneapolis after a short, one-game road trip to the Rockies. On Friday, they’ll host the Milwaukee Bucks at Target Center with a 7:00 p.m. tip-off.