Wolves survive late surge by Denver to finish off successful road trip
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DENVER -- Minnesota built up a big advantage at the free throw line throughout the game, and it was just enough to hold off Denver's furious rally.
Kevin Love scored 33 points and tied a season high with 19 rebounds for his NBA-best 50th double-double this season, and the Timberwolves withstood Denver's 45-point fourth quarter to beat the skidding Nuggets 132-128 on Monday night for their third win in a row.
Kevin Martin added 22 points for the Timberwolves, including four clutch free throws in the final 11.7 seconds. Martin made 16 of 17 foul shots, helping Minnesota rack up NBA season highs in attempts (64) and makes (52) from the line. Denver, meanwhile, went 16 of 25 (64 percent).
"Sixty-four free throws is a lot of free throws," Love said. "It was unbelievable. There were a lot of things that went on in that game that were just nuts, particularly the free throw situation and the 3-pointers at the end. K-Mart made some great plays, hit some big free throws, and that ultimately gave us separation."
Love did his part as well, topping 30 points for the 11th time in his last 14 starts, including 11 of 13 from the free throw line to help Minnesota wrap up a 4-1 trip out west.
"That's major," Martin said of Minnesota's successful road swing. "Tonight was a must-win for us. You don't have too many must-wins in the beginning of March, but we understand where we're at right now and guys had the mindset that we had to do anything we had to do to get the win."
The Nuggets got a huge boost from the return of Ty Lawson, who scored a season-high 31 points with 11 assists in his first game since breaking a rib Feb. 8 at Detroit. But it wasn't enough to reverse their sagging fortunes. Denver lost its sixth straight and has dropped 11 of 12 overall.
"You give a team 52 points at the free throw line and another 54 points in the paint, it is going to be tough to beat them," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.
Trailing by 22 after a layup by Nikola Pekovic midway through the third quarter, the Nuggets responded with a 13-2 run that Randy Foye finished with a 3-pointer to pull to 85-74 with 4:10 remaining in the period.
Just 3 minutes later, the Timberwolves were in front by 20 on a 20-foot jumper by Shabazz Muhammad.
Denver made another push, pulling to 117-107 on Aaron Brooks' 3-pointer with 3:25 left and then cutting it to 128-125 on Wilson Chandler's 3 with 12.6 seconds left. After Martin was fouled and made a pair of free throws, Evan Fournier hit another 3 with 7.2 seconds remaining to bring Denver to 130-128.
Martin was fouled and again made both free throws, securing the win for the Timberwolves after Chandler's 3-point try in the final seconds hit the rim and bounced away -- though Minnesota was outscored 45-34 in the final period.
"They were making everything, banking stuff in," Brewer said. "But it's all about getting the win. Nights like that, you have to hold on.
"For us to go 4-1 on the road trip means a lot. Now we get to go home, four games at home, and we need all four games at home."
The Timberwolves outscored the Nuggets 40-25 in the first quarter and led 66-49 at halftime. Chandler had a pair of baskets, cutting Minnesota's lead to 58-47, but the Timberwolves scored eight of 10 points in the last 2:18 of the second to rebuild their lead.
"We gave up too many points in the first quarter," Lawson said. "When you're playing uphill like that, it's tough to come back and actually get the win. We got it down to two, but they just hit their free throws at the end."© The Associated Press