MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Andre Iguodala had 18 points and nine rebounds to spoil Kevin Love’s surprise season debut in the Denver Nuggets’ 101-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Danilo Gallinari scored 19 points for the Nuggets, who withstood a furious start by a Timberwolves team buoyed by the return of their All-Star power forward.
Love scored 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, helping the Wolves take a 17-point lead in the first half. But he didn’t get a whole lot of help in his first game in nearly five weeks. Nikola Pekovic had 10 points and seven rebounds in his return from a three-game absence.
After a sluggish start to the season, the Nuggets (6-6) have picked up two straight quality road wins against Memphis and Minnesota.
Ty Lawson had 18 points and nine assists and Kenneth Faried had 14 rebounds for the Nuggets, who overcame 20 turnovers.
Love broke his right hand on Oct. 18, about two weeks before the start of the regular season, and the team estimated a recovery time of six to eight weeks. But he quietly rejoined the team at practice during a four-day break between games, and the Wolves did their best to keep a lid on his return for as long as possible.
Coach Rick Adelman even dodged a question about Love’s progress about 75 minutes before the game, but word leaked out a few minutes later that Love was back in the starting lineup less than five weeks from his injury.
The stunned Timberwolves fans roared like they haven’t all season when he was announced in the starting lineup, and the surprises just kept coming.
During his halftime interview with FoxSports North, Love said he called his father on Wednesday to tell him he was playing, then asked if he had any advice.
“Let it fly,” Stan Love told his son.
Did he ever.
Love scored 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting in the first quarter, an incredibly fluid performance considering his long layoff. J.J. Barea and Pekovic returned from injuries as well, and the Wolves led by 17 points in the first half, but Love’s Olympic teammate helped Denver come roaring back in the third quarter.
Iguodala hit three 3-pointers and then unleashing a spin move in transition and a dunk over two Timberwolves to tie the game at 67. Lawson added another from long range and Faried threw down a dunk that gave the Nuggets a 92-87 lead with 2:41 to play, and Denver was able to hold on.
Barea finished with 12 points, but the Wolves missed nine free throws. Love missed six of those.
Andre Miller scored all 11 of his points in the fourth quarter for Denver.
NOTES: Faried had just four points before fouling out. … Love picked up a technical foul in the third quarter for tossing former teammate Kosta Koufos to the ground after they got tangled up underneath the basket. … Timberwolves PG Luke Ridnour picked up a rare technical foul in the third quarter for gesturing after a foul call from referee Danny Crawford.