Wolves hang on to beat Denver
MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love spent the morning backpedaling and Nikola Pekovic spent the evening plowing full steam ahead.
Pekovic had 22 points and 11 rebounds and the Minnesota Timberwolves used a big advantage at the free throw line to overcome Love’s shooting struggles in a 108-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.
Love finished with eight points on 3-for-17 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds on a day he had to explain to Minnesota’s owner and his teammates some critical comments he made about the franchise.
The Timberwolves shot under 40 percent for much of the game, but made 30 of 37 from the free throw line. The Nuggets were just 14 of 24 at the line.
Kenneth Faried had 26 points and 14 rebounds for the road-weary Nuggets, who missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
JJ Barea had 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds, and Andrei Kirilenko scored 18 points for Minnesota.
The Wolves led by 11 with less than two minutes to play, but the Nuggets pulled within three and had the ball with 34 seconds to play. Ty Lawson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was short, and the Wolves breathed a sigh of relief.
Lawson had 17 points and 11 assists, and Danilo Gallinari scored 24 for Denver.
Love met with reporters after shootaround to explain some harsh comments he made about the organization to Yahoo! Sports. Love vowed not to discuss his disappointment at not getting a five-year deal from here on out and said he was generally pleased with the direction the franchise was headed.
He addressed the situation with teammates and owner Glen Taylor before the game — then played like a guy with other things on his mind. He missed his first six shots and couldn’t contain Faried’s boundless energy on the defensive end.
Faried has gone through peaks and valleys this season and entered the night with 22 points total in his previous four games. The Manimal got off to a ferocious start on Wednesday night, scoring 14 points and grabbing five boards in the first quarter alone. He gobbled up rebounds then blew the doors off the Minnesota big men in transition for easy buckets.
That it was coming on the second night of a back-to-back against a Wolves team that had the previous four days off was even more impressive. Then again, the Nuggets have been hardened by a grueling schedule to open this season. They’ve played just nine of their first 23 games at home and were finishing up a five-game road trip.
“I don’t know what George Karl did to Commissioner Stern to deserve this schedule,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said.
The last time these two teams met, the Timberwolves sprang quite a surprise on Karl and the Nuggets. Love made his season debut on that night, which came more than a week before anyone expected. His activation wasn’t known until about an hour before game time, and Karl wondered if the Wolves might throw Ricky Rubio out there on Wednesday night for his first game of the season.
Karl said he received a text earlier Wednesday that “guaranteed” Rubio would not be playing that night. “That made me even more suspicious,” he said. Rubio did not play. He’s expected to play Saturday night against Dallas.
Notes: Gallinari entered the night shooting 28 percent from 3-point range. He was 4 for 5 on Wednesday night. ... Timberwolves G/F Josh Howard missed the game because of an illness. ... Wolves SG Malcolm Lee left the game just before halftime with a hyperextended right knee and did not return.