Kevin Love was cleaning up on the boards and hitting one shot after another on a career night. His only problem, as it turned out, was that he didn’t have eyes in the back of his head.
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Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points and blocked an attempted layup by Love from behind in the late going, helping the Denver Nuggets withstand Love’s career-high, 43-point performance for a 115-113 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.
”That was a big play, but that was another situation where we did our best to keep him off the glass, he ended up with the ball. It was just a timely block,” Anthony said. ”It was something we needed at the time. It was lucky.”
Love, who had 17 rebounds for his 14th consecutive double-double, grabbed an offensive board with 1:22 left. He went right back up to try to lay it in, but Anthony swatted it away, starting a fast break that J.R. Smith finished by connecting on a 3-pointer from the baseline to make it 115-106 Denver with 1:12 remaining.
Love said he didn’t see Anthony ranging from behind.
”I just thought I’d catch the ball and go right back up quick, but Melo, he has great timing on both ends of the floor,” Love said. ”He was there to block it, which was tough. He was in the right place at the right time.”
Minnesota kept coming, though, scoring the game’s final seven points, including a 20-foot jumper by Martell Webster with 27 seconds remaining that pulled the Timberwolves within two. Anthony missed a shot in the final seconds – the Timberwolves chose not to foul – but the ball went out of bounds off Minnesota and the Timberwolves were left with another near miss and their 11th consecutive loss on the road.
”It is getting frustrating, but we stay hungry because we are young and we have veteran guys who have come from winning situations and they aren’t giving up on this team,” Love said. ”We’re trying to get better in the here and now, but we’re also looking to the future, on growing together and becoming a good team.”
Love’s play already makes the Timberwolves a team to be reckoned with, said the Nuggets’ Smith.
”He played brilliant,” said Smith, who finished with 18 points. ”Everything is in flow and is in motion. He’s never rushing anything. He gets good shots and he gets other players open. He’s a heck of a player.”
Ty Lawson added 23 points for the Nuggets and Arron Afflalo had 17.
Michael Beasley had 17 points for Minnesota, and Webster and Jonny Flynn added 12 apiece. The Timberwolves were missing two of their top post players, center Darko Milicic and forward Nikola Pekovic, who were both sidelined with sprained ankles.
The Nuggets were without guard Chauncey Billups (wrist) for a third consecutive game, but still had plenty of firepower to beat the Timberwolves for the 18th time in 22 meetings.
Afflalo hit a 3-pointer with 1:38 left in the third quarter to push the Nuggets’ lead to 88-68, but Minnesota scored the last seven points in the period and trailed 88-75 heading into the fourth.
The Timberwolves chipped away at the Nuggets’ advantage. A pair of free throws by Love followed by Flynn’s driving layup made it 104-97 and later, Love hit his fifth 3-pointer, narrowing Denver’s lead to 107-102 with 4:29 remaining.
Notes: During a pregame news conference, Nuggets coach George Karl declined comment on his league-imposed $25,000 fine for public remarks about the officiating following Denver’s 113-112 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday. … Minnesota has not won on the road since Nov. 10, when the Timberwolves beat Sacramento 98-89 for their only victory away from home this season. … Love has scored 30 or more points four times this season. His previous career high was 33 points against the New York Knicks on Dec. 6. … Lawson, who started in place of Billups, matched a career high with nine assists.