Timberwolves handled the Nuggets, snapping their 6-game losing streak


MINNEAPOLIS – Austin Rivers wound up and uncorked the knockout.

The former Nuggets guard followed up his late 3-pointer with a few pointed words just a few feet from the Nuggets’ bench.

The Timberwolves paid no attention to Denver’s surging record and didn’t mind clashing with the two-time MVP. Concerned about snapping their own six-game losing streak, the Timberwolves handled the Nuggets, 124-111, on Monday night, dropping Denver to 24-13.

“We were preaching for defense for 48 minutes tonight,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, though it didn’t show up enough. “… They have pride.”

Anthony Edwards puffed his chest in the wake of his 29-point performance. Despite 24 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds from Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets’ lackluster defense was too thin. The Timberwolves managed 58 points in the paint in addition to 16 second-chance points.

Aaron Gordon had 12 points and 16 rebounds, but struggled, mightily, with his efficiency. Bones Hyland paced Denver’s reserves with 18 off the bench, but Denver’s 15 turnovers undermined whatever offense they could muster. Jamal Murray returned after resting his knee for one game and ended the night with 14 points.

“We gotta match that intensity,” said Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., who had four 3-pointers. “… We just gotta come out with more intentional focus on the back-to-backs.”

The Nuggets will head back to Denver, awaiting a visit from the Clippers on Thursday.

Like the rest of the Nuggets, Murray awoke from his first-half slumber once the third quarter came around. He played inside-out basketball, as the Nuggets made a concerted effort to attack Minnesota’s paint. Murray scored 10 points in the third quarter alone, combining that with physical, feisty defense. After a soft first half, the Nuggets were the aggressors.

No play encapsulated their inside presence better than Jokic’s over-the-shoulder find to Gordon down low. The highlight split Minnesota’s defense, threading a needle between Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gobert. But Denver trailed 90-85 heading into the fourth after Edwards muscled his way to several buckets.

There was a reunion of sorts prior to Monday’s game when former Nuggets president Tim Connelly held court for about 45 minutes with Denver’s staffers and players. Though he left Denver for a division rival, he still remains close with numerous people in Denver’s organization. A handful of players embraced him and his son once they saw them prior to tip-off.

Malone only allowed himself to enjoy Sunday’s statement win over Boston for a few moments before the team headed to Minnesota. The challenge was in turning the page and deciphering what was behind 10 wins in their last 12 games.

In that span, Denver’s much-maligned defense ranked 12th in the NBA.

“I’ll be honest,” Malone said. “We’ve looked to get a little bit more aggressive at times, but I think it’s our players understanding if we truly want to be the team that we talk about wanting to be, we can’t try to just outscore teams on a nightly basis. That’s been fun to watch.”


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