Sure, the Nuggets were far from perfect, especially in the first half when they were outscored by five points, but Denver pulled together a total team effort to defeat a feisty T’Wolves squad.
The Nuggets were explosive in the third quarter, when they usually experience scoring droughts, as Denver was sparked by J.R. Smith.
Smith’s three straight three pointers brought the Nuggets back to within one point at 67-66, and broke all the momentum Minnesota had built to that point. Along with the great shooting, J.R. had a “Top-10” worthy 360 alley-oop dunk that broke the T’Wolves will in the fourth quarter. (Actually, it was SportsCenter ’s No. 1 play of the night.)
But as Denver was without starting power forward Kenyon Martin—who underwent his first PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) therapy session today—for a third straight game, it was once again a true group effort that won the game.
Chauncey Billups was the Nuggets leading scorer at 25 points, and he was one of six Denver players to score in double digits tonight. Carmelo Anthony scored well under his average at 19 but still filled the stat line up—six boards, five dimes, and five steals.
Chris “Birdman” Andersen is soaring high on the best basketball he’s played all season; his 14 points, 10 boards, and three blocks tonight made him a huge impact in place of K-Mart on the defensive end. At times, Bird protected the net, and even Al Jefferson was scared to take it up on him after one of Andersen’s blocks.
Nene was domineering, beasting many dunks home for 17 points, while snatching nine boards.
Together the Nuggets cruised to victory as they have in the last four straight.
Yes, they should have beaten the Timberwolves, who own a win over Denver already, but the Nuggets have lost focus in should-win games all season. This winning streak symbolizes that Denver can pull together without their best defender and still win games.
The way they’ve won, though, is similar to in years past, plain outscoring opponents to the tune of 117.25-103. For the third time this season, the Nuggets are winning without one of their key starters, which has already built both their confidence and character.
It’s a good thing Denver is on this four game streak too, as Dallas is on an NBA season best 13-game streak currently. The Mavericks are two and a half games back of the first place Lakers, and the Nuggets are in third, one game behind Dallas. Utah is still nipping at Denver’s heels, only a game back and on their own four-game win streak.
And as the Western conference sprint to the finish for playoff positioning heats up, the Nuggets can ill-afford to lose many more games, although their finishing schedule is the toughest in the NBA. Thirteen of their final 22 games are against plus-.500 teams, which doesn’t include two games against highly-competitive Hornets.
Denver starts a three-game road trip this Friday in New Orleans (32-33) as they hope to continue these winning ways sans K-Mart and George Karl.
Adrian Dantley picked up the win tonight in Karl’s absence, and he may have to coach again Friday.
The action tips off at 6:00 p.m. MT and can be seen on Altitude TV in Colorado.
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State University graduate and freelance journalist who specializes in Colorado Sports. Along with writing here for bleacherreport.com, Kurtzman is the Denver Broncos Featured Columnist for NFLTouchdown.com and the Colorado State Rams Examiner for examiner.com. You can follow Rich on twitter and become a fan on facebook to read all his pieces.