DENVER (AP) — J.J. Barea scored 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter while All-Star forward Kevin Love sat on the bench with a sprained finger, lifting the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 101-97 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.
The Timberwolves were playing for the second straight night, but fatigue hardly appeared to be a factor as they handed the Nuggets a rare home loss. Denver, on the other hand, looked lethargic two days after snapping the Los Angeles Clippers’ 17-game winning streak. Kosta Koufos and Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 16 points each.
The game went back and forth in the final quarter before Luke Ridnour gave the Timberwolves the lead for good on a 3-pointer with 2:43 remaining. Barea then followed with another 3 to cement the win.
But it might be a costly victory for the Timberwolves after Love departed with a sprained finger on his right hand in the third quarter. Love broke his right hand in October, missing the opening nine games of the season, and has struggled to get on track with his jumper ever since.
Love was sliding past a Nuggets player in the lane when he suddenly clutched at his hand and headed into the training room. Love had 12 points and 17 rebounds before departing. He later returned to the bench to watch.
The Pepsi Center hasn’t been kind to Love, who sustained a mild concussion and neck strain after a hit to the head in a game against Denver last April.
It was a big night for the usually modest Andre Miller, who scored the 15,000th point of his career on a mid-range jumper in the first quarter. He became only the eighth player to reach that scoring plateau while also compiling 7,500 career assists. Oscar Robertson, Gary Payton, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash also accomplished the feat.
In typical Miller fashion, the 36-year-old downplayed the approaching milestone before the game. Said Miller: “A big individual accomplishment … I try not to dwell on it. I never even thought about it. It’s good to get it over with.”
Nuggets coach George Karl said he would put Miller in the “top five in basketball” and that having a player with Miller’s vision “is a blessing to a coach.”
Miller started the game in place of Lawson, who’s still recovering from a strained left Achilles tendon. Lawson sat out Tuesday when the Nuggets beat the Clippers and has been bothered by tightness in the tendon for the past week.
The speedy point guard provided a spark off the bench against Minnesota — the first time in nearly two years that Lawson entered a game as a reserve.
The Timberwolves were without point guard Ricky Rubio, who has been dealing with back spasms and remained in Minnesota during the two-game swing through Utah and Denver. The team is being cautious with Rubio, who is coming back from a torn ACL in his left knee. Minnesota hopes to have Rubio back Saturday against Portland.
NOTES: The Timberwolves had six players score in double figures. Alexey Shved also had 17 points. … Asked about the chances of the Denver Broncos making the Super Bowl, Karl said, “I like them.” … Otis Day of “Animal House” fame sang at halftime. … Miller finished with 10 assists.
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