Nearly unbeatable at home this season, the Denver Nuggets got the better of one of the few teams that has managed to get out of town with a victory.
Ty Lawson matched his season high with 32 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, and the Nuggets beat the injury-depleted Minnesota Timberwolves, 111-88, Saturday night to stretch their home winning streak to 13 games, their longest in 14 years.
”We’ve all been playing better in the second half of the season, and our record is showing that,” Lawson said. ”The first half of the season, there were worries in management, coaching staff if we were going to make the playoffs, but we’ve gotten into shape and we’ve been playing well.”
Corey Brewer had 15 points, while Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala added 11 apiece for the Nuggets, who have won eight in a row overall. Fueled by their longest home winning streak since a 19-game run from Jan. 28 to April 20, 1989, the Nuggets ran their home record to 28-3, tying the Miami Heat for best in the league.
”We’ve been looking to play this way since the beginning of the season, and we’ve been working on it, but I think we still have a lot of room to improve,” Gallinari said.
Mickael Gelabale scored 19 points for the Timberwolves, who were without Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain), Kevin Love (broken hand), Andrei Kirilenko (strained left calf), Brandon Roy (knee surgery), Chase Budinger (knee) and Malcom Lee (knee).
”It gets tough on all of us, especially when you have nine guys and you’re going up against a team like this,” said Minnesota’s Derrick Williams, who finished with 13 points. ”It was tough, especially in their building. Their crowd gets behind them and everything starts to snowball, like it did tonight.”
J.J. Barea added 15 points for Minnesota, which lost for the seventh time in eight games.
Denver avenged a rare home loss the last time the teams met. The Timberwolves beat the Nuggets 101-97 on Jan. 3 despite losing Love to the hand injury for much of the second half, snapping Denver’s eight-game home winning streak at the time.
It was a different story in the rematch.
”We had a lot less people on the court, and more injuries,” Williams said. ”But they started pushing at us. I think that was part of their game plan. They saw we were kind of short-handed and their transition game is the best in the league. They started transitioning on us and it really takes a toll on you.”
After a basket by Williams tied the score at 57-all, the Nuggets put together a 14-2 run that included 3-pointers by Gallinari and Lawson to go in front 71-59 with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Ricky Rubio and Greg Stiemsma hit successive baskets to get the Timberwolves within nine, but the Nuggets produced another surge to take an 83-70 lead into the fourth quarter. JaVale McGee had three dunks in the stretch for Denver, including a breakaway slam after stealing the ball from Rubio near midcourt.
With Lawson leading the Nuggets’ relentless transition game, Denver extended its lead in the fourth to finish with a 23-point margin.
”The first half, we played terrible and Coach let us know,” Lawson said. ”We regrouped at halftime. We knew it was a trap game. They beat us last time on a trap game, so we didn’t want history to repeat itself.”
Trailing 48-41, Minnesota scored eight straight points, starting with a jumper by Stiemsma, to go in front by a point. Lawson made a pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give the Nuggets a 50-49 lead at halftime.
NOTES: Lawson registered his fourth career 30-point game. He has scored 20 or more points in 19 of his last 26 games. … Minnesota missed a chance to string together two wins for the first time since winning a season-high four straight from Dec. 7-15, including a 108-105 home win over the Nuggets. … Exchanges with officials over disputed calls resulted in Minnesota coach Rick Adelman, Rubio and Nuggets coach George Karl all being hit with technicals. … Gelabale registered a season high in points…. The Nuggets had 13 steals and have had at least 10 in eight of the past nine games.