Nuggets-Timberwolves Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 24, 2012
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Despite a record-setting night from Kevin Love during a toe-to-tow clash with the West's best team, the scuffling Minnesota Timberwolves ultimately came up short again their last time out. Coach Rick Adelman is hoping his team isn't headed for another late-season collapse. In a quick stop back home before hitting the road again, the Timberwolves could have a hard time getting back on track Sunday against a Denver Nuggets team seeking an 18th win in 19 meetings in the series. Minnesota (23-26) looked poised to make a postseason run a little over two weeks ago but has since taken several steps back. Losing rookie standout Ricky Rubio to a season-ending torn ACL certainly didn't make things any easier on the Timberwolves, who have dropped seven of nine - including five of seven on a recently completed 12-day road swing. Love came up huge during the finale of Minnesota's longest trek in franchise history, but his franchise-best 51 points and 14 rebounds weren't enough in Friday's 149-140 double-overtime loss at Oklahoma City. "It doesn't matter. We lost," said Love, who hit one of his career-high seven three-pointers with a second left in regulation. "We needed this game, especially the last game of our road trip against a very good team. This could have definitely been a driving force for us in these last 17, 18 games. "There's still a lot of fight in us. We might be down but we're not out, if we can just continue to get better.We need to have more games like this." J.J. Barea had 25 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for his first-career triple-double while Anthony Tolliver scored 23 points for the Timberwolves, who are starting to resemble the teams that faded down the stretch in each of the previous two seasons. Minnesota concluded its 2010-11 campaign on a 15-game losing streak and lost 23 of its final 24 games in 2009-10. ''I worry about it a lot. I think the thing you worry about with this group is they've really struggled in the last couple years and you can't give into the situation," said Adelman, whose team opens a stretch of four of five on the road following Sunday's game. "You can't give in to the tough schedule, you can't give in to the fact that you've lost players or lost games." Starting center Nikola Pekovic (sore left ankle) and Michael Beasley (sprained left toe) sat out again Friday and are both questionable. Having them around would surely help as the Timberwolves try to snap their recent woes versus the Nuggets (26-22). Denver has taken 17 of 18 from Minnesota - including the last seven by an average of 9.5 points. This season's first meeting between the teams, however, went down to the wire, with the Nuggets prevailing 103-101 in overtime Feb. 20. Denver dropped to 4-5 over its last nine games and kicked off a seven-game trip with Friday's 121-102 loss at Utah. The Jazz, who outscored the Nuggets 64-44 in the second and third quarters, shot 59.3 percent from the field - the highest mark surrendered by Denver all season. "In this stage of the season, understanding how important this game was, they seemed to have a better understanding than we did," coach George Karl told the league's official website. "I just don't think our defensive dimension had any integrity to it." Arron Afflalo was one of six players to score in double figures for the Nuggets but was ejected after committing a flagrant foul. He faces a one-game suspension. Denver has won eight straight at Minnesota but is just 2-5 in its last seven road games.
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