Karl’s Nuggets yet to beat winning team
MINNEAPOLIS – Eddie Griffin had 10 points, three rebounds and two blocks in the final 10 minutes of the game to spark Minnesota to a 98-92 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, snapping the Timberwolves’ six-game losing streak.Kevin Garnett led Minnesota with 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but it was Griffin who injected a stagnant team with some much-needed energy to deliver the victory.The Nuggets led 82-77 with just under 6 minutes to play after Andre Miller hit a jumper.But Wally Szczerbiak responded with a jumper of his own and a three-point play, and Griffin backed down Nene for an easy bucket to tie the game at 82 less than 2 minutes later.That set up a back and forth final four minutes that featured five lead changes.
After Earl Boykins hit two free throws for an 84-82 lead, Griffin hit a 3-pointer, got a dunk off a miss from Wally Szczerbiak and converted a three-point play off a brilliant hustle play from Szczerbiak for a 92-88 lead with 1:13 to go.Carmelo Anthony wore his shorts right from the get-go and scored 21 points to lead the Nuggets and Boykins added 19, including a driving layup that brought Denver within two with 30 seconds to play.But Garnett and Szczerbiak sealed the win with free throws and Anthony, who caught national attention for pulling his shorts down to fix them after starting Tuesday night’s win over Utah with them on backwards, airballed a 3-pointer to end it.With Griffin on the bench, the Denver front line of Nene, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby dominated the boards, refusing Minnesota any second-chance shots.Griffin was able to track down loose balls, getting two critical offensive rebounds down the stretch.
The intensity of this rivalry has been on the upswing since the teams met in the first round of last year’s playoffs. In their previous meeting, Michael Olowokandi and Nene were both ejected for fighting in the third quarter.There was no incident this time, and Minnesota coach Flip Saunders was hoping the Nuggets would bring out some intensity that has been sorely lacking in blowout losses to Phoenix and Memphis.The Timberwolves looked like their old selves early on, playing tough defense and knocking down open shots to build an 18-point lead.They held the Nuggets to 26 percent shooting and 14 points in the first quarter and opened the second with a 14-4 run. Trenton Hassell hit a jumper for a 41-23 with 4:45 to go in the half.But Martin scored six points during a 16-2 run that cut the margin to four points at 43-39, eliciting boos from an impatient and skeptical home crowd.
After shooting just 6 for 23 in the first quarter, the Nuggets were 12-of-18 in the second and trailed 45-41 at halftime.Martin finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Camby added 15 points.Szczerbiak scored 19 points for Minnesota.Notes: Sam Cassell missed the game with a strained right hamstring. Cassell missed 10 games earlier this season with the same injury, and Saunders says the team will be cautious in bringing him back. … The Nuggets’ 14 first-quarter points were just two better than their season low for points in a quarter.
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