Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/4/13
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DENVER -- What could have been a costly two-game trip ended positively for the Minnesota Timberwolves. With Ricky Rubio back in Minneapolis and Kevin Love on the bench due to an injured hand, the Timberwolves came up with an unexpected win Thursday against the Denver Nuggets, shrugging off a poor game against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. Jose Juan Barea came off the bench to score 17 points -- 12 in the fourth quarter -- Alexey Shved also had 17 points, and the Timberwolves overcame the loss of Love to beat the Nuggets 101-97. "It's huge. It tells a lot about our team," Barea said. "We had a disappointing loss last night, and we come into Denver, a hard place to win, and we get the W." Ty Lawson, who returned from a one-game absence, and Kosta Koufas scored 16 points each for the Nuggets (18-16), who had their eight-game home winning streak snapped. "There's always four, five, six games a year where you embarrass yourself, and tonight was one of those nights," Nuggets coach George Karl said. They can blame the Minnesota bench for that. Love sat out the final 16 minutes after he sprained a finger on his right hand underneath the basket late in the third quarter. He left to have an X-ray but returned to the bench at the start of the fourth quarter. It's the same hand that he fractured Oct. 17, costing him the first nine games of the season. He didn't get back into the game, and he finished with 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds in 24 minutes. Coach Rick Adelman didn't know after the game if Love would play Saturday when the Timberwolves (15-14) return home to face the Portland Trail Blazers. With Love hurt, Rubio at home and center Nikola Pekovic in foul trouble, the bench took over, most notably Barea. He played the entire fourth quarter and was big down the stretch, feeding Luke Ridnour for a tiebreaking 3-pointer and minutes later hitting a big 3-pointer of his own. "It's about time," Ridnour said of the 3-pointers. "We've had a streak of nobody being able to hit them, so to get a couple to go down feels pretty good." Things looked grim for the Timberwolves when Love left the game. Minnesota trailed by 10, but 3-pointers from Ridnour and Barea and six points from Shved gave the Wolves a 73-72 lead early in the fourth. The game was tied at 91 before Ridnour drained a 27-foot 3-pointer to give Minnesota the lead for good with 2:43 left. After an airball by Andre Miller at the other end, the Timberwolves called a timeout. Barea hit another 3 to put Minnesota up 97-91 with 1:43 left. "He was unbelievable. He just kept getting around their big guys," Adelman said of Barea. "He keeps dogging people and keeps getting there." After Miller hit a layup, Dante Cunningham came up with a big offensive rebound with 1:21 left -- Minnesota's 17th of the game -- and fed Barea for a layup that put the Wolves up by six again. Denver guard Andre Iguodala had a chance to cut the lead to two, but he missed a free throw, and the Timberwolves closed it out at the line. "That was a thrown game. They came in off a back-to-back," Miller said. "This was a game we had to win. Needed to win. We just didn't take advantage of this game." The Timberwolves fell behind by nine late in the first quarter but came back in the second. Love continued to struggle from the field but was a force in the first half, finishing with 12 points and 13 rebounds as Minnesota took a 47-43 lead at the break. NOTES: Miller became the eighth player in NBA history to score 15,000 points and have at least 7,000 assists when he scored a bucket with 10 minutes left in the first quarter. He finished with 11 points and 10 assists Thursday, giving him 15,009 points and 7,667 assists. ... Lawson missed Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers due to a strained left Achilles tendon. ... Rubio missed his third straight game with back spasms, but Adelman said Rubio might be able to return Saturday. ... Adelman said Love's recent shooting struggles have had an effect of the forward. "He has struggled with his shooting, but the important thing is for him to just fight through it and come back and with a strong game," Adelman said. "He has had games where he has played very well and looked very active, and then he has had games like he had (Wednesday) night where he didn't. It's not just him. We collectively as a group really had a bad game." ... Love (13.8 per game) and Denver forward Kenneth Faried (10.2) ranked second and 10th, respectively, in rebounding in the NBA entering play Thursday. Faried finished with eight points and six boards against Minnesota. ... Minnesota outrebounded Denver 52-39.
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