Jokic scores 26, Nuggets rally to beat Wolves 93-91
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 26 points and 19 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets completed a late rally to win their 12th in a row against Minnesota, beating the Timberwolves 93-91 on Saturday night.
Monte Morris made a layup to break an 89-all tie with 2:04 to play, and Jokic added a pair of free throws to give the Nuggets a four-point lead, their largest of the game.
Anthony Edwards had a layup with 31 seconds to play, and the Wolves got a final chance after Karl-Anthony Towns forced a turnover by Jokic. But Will Barton came up with a crucial block on a driving Malik Beasley and Edwards missed a final attempt under the rim as the seconds ticked off.
It capped a wild 24 hours for Denver, which beat Dallas 106-75 a night earlier and didn’t arrive in Minneapolis until about 4 a.m.
“To win a home game last night, and then to get into the hotel around 4 o’clock, guys don’t get to sleep until 5 o’clock in the morning, and to come out and win a really ugly game speaks volumes about our group,” coach Michael Malone said.
On their last gasp, the Wolves had a 3-on-1 fast break with the home crowd ready to roar. But Barton hustled back on defense to swat Beasley, who had energized Minnesota’s fans earlier with his long-range shooting.
“Championship teams do things like that,” Barton said.
Beasley scored all of his 18 points on 3-pointers.
The Wolves led by as many as 14 before Jokic finally warmed up. Denver outscored Minnesota 14-4 to close out the first half and steadily chipped away. But Minnesota kept answering with 3s; the Wolves went 13 of 41 from the arc and hit six in a row to close out the third quarter to slow Denver’s run and narrowly keep the Wolves in front.
“Good teams find a way to win,” Malone said. “Last night it was a blowout. Tonight it was a grind-it-out slugfest. But at the end of the day, we’re 4-2, we’ve won two games in a row and this was a division game. These games matter.”
The Wolves got just 14 from Towns. Minnesota’s big man shot 4 of 11 from the floor and had only eight rebounds.
“We needed to find KAT more,” coach Chris Finch said. “Eleven shots is not enough. I’ll take responsibility for a lot of that. In general, we’ve got to find him more.”
Jokic’s defense had a lot to do with Towns’ struggles, though. Playing for the second straight night on an injured knee, the NBA’s reigning MVP went 10 for 23 from the floor, dished seven assists and frustrated Towns inside.
MAKING BONES ABOUT IT
Bones Hyland had eight points off the bench and played some quality minutes down the stretch with the starters. He hit a big 3-pointer with 5:23 to play that cut Minnesota’s lead to 87-85. With Morris leading a fast break off a Wolves turnover, Hyland flared out to the corner and found himself open for the shot in front of the Minnesota bench.
“I’m just always ready for the moment,” Hyland said.
After the game, Malone said the Nuggets wouldn’t have won without him.
“He is fearless,” the coach said.
BIG MEN BATTLE
Jokic and Towns went at each other early and often. The two even got tangled up down low and were whistled for a double foul in the first half. Towns nearly came out with the upper hand after stripping the ball from Jokic with 6.9 seconds to play - but Barton took care of that with his emphatic block on Beasley’s driving attempt.
Nuggets: Denver hasn’t lost to Minnesota since April 11, 2018. ... Morris finished with 16 points, while Aaron Gordon had 12 and Barton 10. ... Jokic didn’t score his first points until midway through the second quarter and had 10 in the half.
Timberwolves: Beasley’s six 3-pointers were a season high. ... Edwards and D’Angelo Russell both finished with 14 points. Edwards also had 11 rebounds and brought the crowd to its feet with a couple of rim-rattling dunks. Naz Reid added 12 points. ... Edwards had his first double-double of the season.
Nuggets: At Memphis on Monday.
Timberwolves: Host Orlando on Monday.