Gallinari, Nuggets snap 6-game skid with win over Wolves
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves entered their game tied at the bottom of the Northwest Division and they played that way in a grinding, ugly slugfest on Wednesday night.
And the Nuggets just didn't miss quite as much as the Wolves did down the stretch.
Danilo Gallinari had 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists to help Denver snap a six-game losing streak with a 78-74 victory over the reeling Timberwolves.
Jusuf Nurkic had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and the Nuggets overcame 35.8 percent shooting by hitting eight of 20 3-pointers. Denver had lost nine of its previous 10 games, but won for the first time when scoring fewer than 100 points this season.
''It wasn't pretty basketball at times but there's no such thing as an ugly win,'' Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 14 points and 14 rebounds, and Nikola Pekovic scored 12 in his season debut for the Timberwolves. Minnesota has lost four straight games, eight of its last nine and is 5-14 at home this season.
The Timberwolves shot 2 for 20 in the fourth quarter and made just three of 11 3-pointers.
''Story of our life,'' Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell said, alluding to the team's season-long problems scoring.
Gallinari and Nurkic were the only Nuggets in double figures. But they held the Wolves to 38 percent shooting and allowed just one field goal in the final 11 minutes of the fourth quarter in an effort that made the hard-nosed Malone proud.
''I don't care who we play, whether it's Minnesota or a team like Houston, our defense has to play at a high level and be more consistent,'' Malone said.
The Timberwolves held a 90-minute team meeting on Tuesday after getting handled by the lowly 76ers in Philadelphia a night earlier. Mitchell said he hoped the session would help his younger players get on the same page with the veterans in the group and deliver a more sustained effort on both ends of the floor.
The Wolves jumped out to a 10-point lead early in the third quarter before Gallinari and Nurkic brought the Nuggets back. Nurkic missed the first 33 games this season while recovering from a left patellar tendon repair, and he flexed his muscle against the Wolves.
Nurkic's two straight layups in traffic gave Denver a 74-69 lead with 7 minutes to play in the final quarter, and Andrew Wiggins missed a point-blank jumper in the lane that would have tied the game in the final 10 seconds.
''I'm pressing,'' Towns said. ''I don't know if anyone else is, but I am. I want to win. We have to change the tide. We can't keep losing these games.''
Pekovic played for the first time since March 11. The oft-injured big man had surgery to address irritation in his right Achilles over the summer, a last-ditch effort to try to solve the foot issues that have plagued him for the last few years.
The fan favorite received a standing ovation upon entering the game and he quickly converted a layup to get rolling. He capped the first half with his patented move - a baby hook over his left shoulder to give him eight points in 7 minutes.
''It feels good just to be out there with the guys,'' Pekovic said. ''It was not that bad, like I expected. I expected it was going to be way worse.''
Denver's reserves scored 37 points and helped turn around the game in the third quarter when the starters came out flat. Nurkic, Darrell Arthur and Randy Foye led a 9-0 run to get them back in the game and all six players had a positive net rating. Foye was a plus-16 in 27 minutes and Will Barton was a plus-15 in 26.
''It's fun, you know, always when you're back after a long time,'' Nurkic said. ''I can't wait to play. I just tried to help my teammates to win. And I think we did a great job tonight.''
Nuggets: Malone initially thought PG Emmanuel Mudiay would be ready to return from a sprained right ankle, but Mudiay woke up very sore after practicing hard on Tuesday. Malone said he was hopeful Mudiay would play Friday at Memphis.
Timberwolves: Kevin Martin played for the first time in seven games while the Wolves looked to trade him. He had nine points in 16 minutes.
Nuggets: Visit Memphis on Friday.
Timberwolves: Host Cleveland on Friday.