Towns leads Timberwolves to 95-78 win over Nuggets
DENVER (AP) Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 14 rebounds for his second straight double-double and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Denver Nuggets 95-78 on Friday night.
Andrew Wiggins added 18 points despite a sore back as the Timberwolves followed up a season-opening win over the Los Angeles Lakers with another road victory. They were 7-34 away from home last season.
Emmanuel Mudiay scored 15 points for the Nuggets in the home debut of new coach Michael Malone.
The Timberwolves have been playing with heavy hearts since coach Flip Saunders died Sunday after complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His memorial service will be held this weekend in the Twin Cities.
Denver had a moment of silence to honor Saunders and a video tribute featuring comments from Randy Foye and Mike Miller, who played for the longtime coach.
Timberwolves veteran Kevin Garnett said before the game that being on the court has been a ”good outlet” for his team as it goes through a difficult time.
”Something that can take your mind off reality for a little bit,” Garnett said. ”Tough week for us. But we’re managing.”
Minnesota missed five straight free throws to start the second quarter and then hit 24 in a row. The string was snapped when Towns missed with 4:41 remaining – and the game in hand.
Towns was a matchup problem all evening for Denver. The Lakers know the feeling as the No. 1 draft choice had 14 points and 12 rebounds in his NBA debut.
Things turned a little chippy late in the game when Will Barton fouled Wiggins on a jumper. That led to some jawing and both players were given a technical.
On two occasions in the third quarter, the game was halted because of a shot-clock malfunction. The public-address announcer counted down the final five seconds on the shot clock, which confused Barton on a steal. Instead of driving to the hoop, he attempted a half-court shot with 7.8 seconds still remaining in the third. Malone put his hands on his head in bewilderment.
Following his firing in Sacramento last season, Malone was invited by Saunders to spend time with the Timberwolves. Malone said they bonded over basketball and it ”meant the world.”
”I didn’t know (Saunders) long, but in the short time I got to know him, we got to be very close,” Malone said. ”Big loss for the entire NBA and coaching community, for the Wolves and for me, personally.
”I feel blessed to have gotten to know him the way I did before he passed.”
Timberwolves: Asked if altitude would be a factor, interim coach Sam Mitchell responded: ”I can’t fix the altitude.” … Ricky Rubio had 12 points and eight assists.
Nuggets: Wilson Chandler (hip) and Jusuf Nurkic (knee) didn’t play. … Malone and GM Tim Connelly are planning to attend Saunders’ memorial service. … Denver didn’t have the same crisp passing and tenacious defense it had in a 105-85 win at Houston on Wednesday. … Denver shot just 30.5 percent from the field.
Timberwolves: Minnesota plays its home opener Monday against Portland.
Nuggets: Denver is at Oklahoma State on Sunday.