Wiggins scores 31 as Timberwolves beat Nuggets 113-105
DENVER (AP) Andrew Wiggins was sick and tired. Not of losing - although it has been a trying season - but from a bug he can't shake and fatigue that carried over from logging big minutes the night before.
No matter. He's young and resilient, and easily shook all that off to turn in his best performance.
Wiggins scored a career-high 31 points and Robbie Hummel had two big tip-in baskets in the fourth quarter, helping the Minnesota Timberwolves hold off the Denver Nuggets 113-105 on Saturday night.
The dynamic rookie out of Kansas was 11 of 17 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. The top pick in last year's draft has scored 20 or more points in eight of his last 10 games.
Wiggins' improvement this season has been so noticeable that even an official on the court made a comment to Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders.
''He said, `Wiggins, how much he's improved in a month is almost astonishing,''' recounted Saunders, whose team is 4-16 on the road and 3-16 at home. ''He continues to get better and amaze, do everything.''
Wiggins' big night also included nine rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. Asked which number stood out to him, he smirked and responded, ''The win. Definitely.''
''We got the win, played hard, executed down the stretch,'' added Wiggins, whose previous high was 29 points against Sacramento on Nov. 22. ''Nothing feels better than that.''
This recent stretch is exactly what the Timberwolves were expecting from Wiggins when they traded for him, leading Saunders to say, ''he's probably ahead of what anyone anticipated what he would be.''
Hummel finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Thaddeus Young added 22 points.
The Timberwolves hardly looked weary down the stretch in the thin air of the Mile High City despite losing the night before in Phoenix. They're now 2-7 on the second night of a back-to-back.
Ty Lawson had 22 points for the Nuggets, who lost the night before in Dallas, snapping a five-game win streak.
Jameer Nelson had 16 points in his home debut for Denver. The diminutive guard was acquired Tuesday in a deal that sent Nate Robinson to Boston.
''When you lose you think you can do a lot of things better,'' Nelson said. ''I'll be kicking myself in the butt thinking about what I could have done better.''
Hummel's work around the rim propelled the Timberwolves down the stretch. His second tap-in off a miss by Young gave the Timberwolves a 96-95 lead with 5:25 remaining. Mo Williams kept the lead intact by hitting basket after basket each time the Nuggets made a run.
Wilson Chandler was fouled after hitting a 3-pointer. He missed the free throw, and Kenneth Faried tapped it in to make it 108-105 with 1:41 remaining. But Williams hit a long shot to quiet the rally.
''We didn't do a good job of taking that punch. We delivered that punch and they got hot,'' Nelson said.
Even though Wiggins had a splendid all-around game, Williams wasn't about praise him too much. Wiggins is, after all, only a rookie.
''A lot of strides he can continue to make,'' Williams said. ''Rookies run into a wall right now, but he's hitting his stride, which is good. It's tough to log a lot of minutes in this league, do it consistently every day. Have to go out and produce. ... I think he's handling it pretty well.''
Timberwolves: Saunders said guard Ricky Rubio still has soreness in the left ankle he sprained Nov. 7 at Orlando. ''Are we being cautious? Yeah. We just signed the guy to a $55 million contract,'' Saunders said. ''When he's ready to go and the doctors say that he's ready to really go, that's when he'll go.'' ... G Kevin Martin (broken right wrist) and center Nikola Pekovic (ankle, wrist) are both nearing a return. Asked if they might play Monday, Saunders responded, ''We'll see.'' ... F Shabazz Muhammad (strained oblique) missed a fourth straight game.
Nuggets: Lawson has struggled at the free throw line lately. His teammates haven taken to calling him ''Ty Rondo'' - a reference to Dallas guard Rajon Rondo, who's shooting 30 percent from the line. ''Hopefully that will light his fire a little bit at the free throw line,'' coach Brian Shaw said. ... G Randy Foye returned after missing 26 games with a right quadriceps injury. He was 0 for 3 from the field.
Minnesota plays at Charlotte on Monday.
Denver plays at Golden State on Monday.