Timberwolves

Nuggets Beat Wolves To Lock Down 6th Seed In West

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Nikola Pekovic #14 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots against Joey Dorsey #9 of the Toronto Raptors on January 29, 2011. (credit: David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — JaVale McGee scored 19 points to help the Denver Nuggets lock down the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 131-102 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.

Arron Afflalo scored 18 points and Danilo Gallinari had 17 points for the Nuggets, who won their fourth straight game and eighth in their last 10 as they surge into the postseason.

The Nuggets will face the third-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

Nikola Pekovic had 18 points and 10 rebounds and J.J. Barea had 20 points and five assists for the Timberwolves, who will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. The Wolves lost 13 of their last 14 games of the season.

The Nuggets entered the game needing a win or a loss by Dallas in Atlanta to lock down the No. 6 seed in the West. Had they lost and Dallas won in Atlanta, the Nuggets would have faced No. 2 seed Oklahoma City in the first round.

It’s not immediately clear if getting the sixth seed was a good thing for Denver. The Nuggets lost three of their four meetings with the Lakers this season and have never beaten them in six previous playoff series, the last one being a loss in the 2009 Western Conference finals.

Denver does seem to be playing some of its best basketball after a rough couple of weeks integrating McGee in the trade that sent longtime center Nene to Washington. The super-athletic McGee has scored in double figures in the last four games and his 19 points on Thursday night were his most in a Nuggets uniform.

The outcome on Thursday night wasn’t in doubt for very long. Coach George Karl rested forward Al Harrington, who has a strained right knee. But he played all the other regulars in their final tuneup, and the Nuggets were off and running from the start.

They outscored the Timberwolves 16-4 to start the second quarter, opening up a 45-29 lead that was never really threatened. Denver shot 63 percent and out-rebounded the Wolves 48-29.

Wolves coach Rick Adelman has been very unhappy with how his young team has responded to a rash of injuries to starters Ricky Rubio (knee), Kevin Love (concussion) and Luke Ridnour (ankle). Adelman went through a similar situation in Houston when stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were lost.

“We never had a downer like we had here,” Adelman said. “That’s something we have to look at.”

Most of the Wolves wore headbands in warmups and in the game, a tribute to veteran center Brad Miller, who is retiring after 14 seasons in the league. But that was about all the interest they showed in being on the floor on Thursday night.

Miller air-balled two shots in the first quarter and had an ugly turnover, but he did hit a 3-pointer in the fourth and got a hearty cheer from the sparse home crowd. He finished with four points, four rebounds and four assists.

Miller left the game with five minutes to go, getting a standing ovation from the crowd and breaking into tears on the bench when he was swarmed by teammates.

NOTES: Love sat courtside for some guest color commentary with Fox Sports North in the second quarter. … The Wolves finished with a record of 26-40, their most victories since 2006-07 and best winning percentage since 2005-06. … Kenneth Faried had 15 points and seven rebounds and Kosta Koufos had 11 boards for the Nuggets.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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